California Supreme Court Smacks Red Light Cameras

from the technicality? dept

Bob Dole writes “With just one tiny word (“no”), the California Supreme Court may have dealt a multi-million dollar blow to the 66 California cities that use red light cameras. In February, a lower court decision that cost the City of Costa Mesa a quarter million when it ruled that any ticket issued by a camera which didn’t have its own 30-day warning period was invalid. The camera cities went to the Supremes, screaming that if they said “no” to their appeal, it would cost them big money, and Long Beach said it would even shut down its cameras. California’s top judges said nothing more than, “no.” I bet they now regret going to the high court, because it isn’t going to take thirty days before a lawyer smells the class action blood and goes for massive refunds.” Not sure this story deserves the level of glee from Bob here. It seems like this was a decision on a technicality over giving this “30 day warning,” which doesn’t even seem that clear from the story. How does a local government give a 30 day warning for a red light camera? By hanging a huge sign off the red light? By sending a letter to all residents? What about people from out of town? It would be much better if people began to realize the unintended consequences of red light cameras, rather than focusing on technicalities like this story.

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Comments on “California Supreme Court Smacks Red Light Cameras”

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Bob Dole says:


There’s no doubt it would be best if California came to the same realization as Virginia — that cameras are dangerous. Since that’s not going to happen, hitting the main motivation of cameras, hard cash, is the next best thing.

A conservative guess would be that about 80 percent of the cities using cameras didn’t “hang the warning sign” public notice (yeah, that’s basically what it means) for several of their cameras.

I’m looking at the city of Santa Ana. They have 6 intersections in technical violation since January 2004. Those intersections handed out 10,924 citations at $320-350 each. That’s basically a $3,495,680 fine the high court is handing down. And that’s just one city!

pixelpusher220 says:

Re: Agreed

As a resident of VA, please understand what you’re talking about. The cameras in VA did cause an increase in the *number* of accidents, but also a marked decrease in the *severity* of the accidents.

So which would you rather have, twice (number pulled out of the ether) as many minor rear end fender benders, or the current T-bone accidents requiring medical assistance, police direction, hospitals and lawyers? Which do you think costs the gov’t more?

The number of accidents was bound to spike upwards since it’s a *new* traffic rule that takes time to get used to. Hence the CA ruling about 30 days warning. Even so plenty of moronic drivers won’t get it by then, but they *will* walk away, rather than t-bone someone in the intersection.

Unfortunately politics and some bad implementation decisions submarined a good technology.

Bob Dole says:

Re: Re: Agreed

I do understand what I’m talking about. To quote from the 2005 Virginia DOT study, “The cameras are correlated with an increase in total injury crashes, with the increase being between 7% and 24%.”

That’s injury accident, which means hospitals and lawyers are involved. At least one of the Fairfax County rear-end accidents was fatal.

If red light cameras kill just one person, was it worth it?

arnold says:

Re: Re: class action suit

I’m filing a class action suit in OC CA; would like to add others as members. My lawyer is taking it on a contengency basis so he is very confident. All those who join will get a copy of my legal brief (I’m not a lawyer) to review and see what a gross miscarriage of justice there is in these private (illegal) contracts with private companies. (Even violate CVC).


Chomper says:

No Subject Given

Living in the NYC Metro area tells me a few things about red light cameras if we had them:

1.) Too many people run red lights.

2.) If people slowed down instead of speeding up when approaching a light, there would be less accidents.

3.) People tailgate which causes said accidents.

So I think the real issue of some of these accidents is the fact some people just don’t know how to drive properly.

We never hear WHAT kind of accidents these are.

Chris Maresca (user link) says:

In San Francisco ...

… I think that they might have done the 30-day notification. I notice that at intersections where they install red-light cameras, they put huge signs up while the cameras are still ‘bagged’ and then remove the signs when the cameras are uncovered.
That said, if you are in the habit of running red lights (not a practice I advocate or do and you should really stop doing so before you kill someone) you can avoid a ticket by simply leaving your sun visor down. This is because in order for a ticket to be issued, both the plate and the person must be visible. Because of the angle, the person will not be visible with visor down.
A secondary issue in all this is the fact that they actually SHORTEN the yellow time when they install the camera. I actually timed this at the intersection of 8th and Howard (? 101 off ramp…) and after the red light camera was installed, they reduced the yellow by three seconds. Perhaps actually lengthening the yellows would help solve a lot of these accidents.

Jon (user link) says:

Re: In San Francisco ...

No, lengthening the yellow would only encourage people. I’ll admit that on every light between my house and the place I work I know the margins for the yellow lights and abuse them. If the margins change I’ll notice and start abusing the new ones.
What they really need to do is fix the lights. One intersection I’m at constantly has a really long green for one road and an excessively short green for the other (4 legal cars make it through each time). I’m always pushing it there. There was another light timed like this in front of my high school, except that was TWO cars or one bus legally through each light. Yes one bus per light, 20 buses at the school, the other road ran for atleast a minute. Do the math on that one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: In San Francisco ...

“A secondary issue in all this is the fact that they actually SHORTEN the yellow time when they install the camera.”

This is exactly why they’re dangerous, no camera and a lengthened yellow (over the current length) reduces accident.

Light cameras are either an attempt to institute total privacy invasion to control people, an attempt to make money at the expense of killing people, a combination of the above, or complete stupididty. Take your pick.

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