By on April 23, 2010

An intersection in Los Angeles, California is billing drivers nearly $500 for making a turn in the split-second before a permissive green turn arrow appears. Los Angeles hired American Traffic Solutions to operate thirty-two cameras in order to generate about $4 million a year in revenue. The cameras now pounce on drivers making technical mistakes on right-hand turns.

Motorist Stephen Lo found this out the hard way while driving his 2004 Nissan 350Z at the intersection of Sepulveda and Victory Boulevards at around 1:30pm on January 4. As he slowed to make his turn, looking both ways, a 0.6 second gap appeared between the end of the yellow light and the illumination of the green arrow. Because Lo was caught in between the split-second lag between the lights, the photographic evidence showed him apparently breaking the law. A look at the video evidence, however, shows that the vehicle’s front wheels had barely entered the intersection by the time that the green arrow appeared.

“I might just decide to pay the ticket,” Lo told TheNewspaper. “I weighed my options and I don’t have time to go into court to battle this out.”

Lo found himself in the company of about 80 percent of recipients of tickets in Los Angeles who were billed for making rolling right hand turns, according to a 2008 Los Angeles Times report. Despite the heavy focus on right-hand turns for citations, of the 1926 collisions reported at enforced locations between 2006 and 2008, only 2.6 percent were caused by “unsafe turns” — a figure which includes the much more common left-hand turn collisions.


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9 Comments on “Los Angeles Profits From Right Turn Trap...”

  • avatar

    So I get that the camera is not synced with both lights, just shuts off when the green arrow comes on. But, you are making an assumption. Stephen is apparently aware that when the light changes to red the green arrow comes on. Some one not from there would not know than and would have stopped. In my town there are intersections where the right turn in not clear until the end of the cycle. You get the red and then the opposing traffic gets the left turn arrow, not the cross traffic (yes this is a four way intersection). I agree that this situation is a trap but only a trap to those that are familiar with the full cycle of the light. If this was an out of town person they should be expected to stop first.

  • avatar

    And this, folks, is what I call our modern existence in the world of “Captive Capitalism”. Municipalities and corporations know that you are either too busy, too poor, too embedded or too lazy to do anything about the ticket/fine/tax increase/fee charges, other than just pay it and move on.

    I really wonder what the breaking point is going to be for most people – when they finally say *enough* to this kind of crap.

  • avatar

    Cities could make a fortune. And, in some cases,they should. We’ve got a right-green equipped intersection near my house but there’s also a part of the cycle where it’s just red and “right AFTER stop” applies. The reason for that is the walk light.

    The other day I stepped off the curb to cross and was nearly run down by a driver who barely slowed down as he rushed through an illegal right turn.

    The case “The Newspaper” calls out, yeah, that’s a trap without justification. But more rational automatic enforcement might be a good idea.

  • avatar

    KixStart –

    My primary gripe with these automatic enforcement mechanisms is that they may start off with the good intention of stopping problems as you say, but inevitably local politios see the advantage of “tweaking” these systems to reduce yellow light timing, or to nab people who make legitimate stops but who TECHNICALLY are violating the parameters set for the camera. Etc.

    In short, there is no subjectivity as would be given by a police officer monitoring the intersection. And for those who say “well, munis have to have a police officer review the tape”, don’t kid yourself thinking that they’re doing anything other than clicking a button, TECHNICALLY reviewing the tape, and then collecting a sweet $500 fine. I would not be surprised to find out that review officers of this nature are paid a bonus based on how many violations they review per day/week/month, etc.

    The system is rigged to trap you, simple as that. Safety is at best a second consideration to the potential revenue from these devices.

  • avatar

    Honestly, as someone who lives in Los Angeles near this intersection, as much as I don’t like the red light camera thing — enough people do these rolling stops (the so-called “California stop”) that I’m not surprised they’re trying to ticket for it. The delay between yellow light and green arrow is to help keep people from starting on the green only to be nailed by the person running the yellow-now-red (also far too common here), and he should start coming to a full stop before turning right on red.

    Disclaimer: I’m sick of swerving into the next lane to avoid people who do this when the light isn’t anywhere near to green, and it happens at least a few times a day (and I don’t even drive that far!)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t live in LA anymore, but looking at the video, the only traffic moving through that intersection is coming from from the camera’s point of view. Opposing and intersecting traffic is stopped. So there can’t be anyone trying to beat a yellow that could impact a driver making a right.

      The green right arrow should be lit while the rest of the lights are green and stay lit while the others cycle yellow to red. I see a lot of intersections like this, the programming of the right arrow makes no sense at all….unless they’re trying to generate tickets.

  • avatar

    If it’s such a problem then post a police car there and issue tickets. These cameras make it too easy and cheap for cities to rake in money. What if something else happened in the intersection? Say, a hit and run pedestrian, with a car going across the camera view (so no visible plates)? A cop at that corner could act immediately. Will the camera call the police? Will the person viewing the camera (in Mumbai) call the police? I doubt it, at any rate they will be long gone. People will get used to seeing police at the corner and stop the illegal turns. A good cop can hand out several tickets an hour, at $500 a pop, that should cover his pay for the day.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Actually, whats really disturbing is the city of LA gets diddly-squat of that $500 ticket.

    In CA, there is the base fine (which is, I believe, $25 or $50 for this violation), which gets split either equally or benefiting the county between the city and county.

    The rest is all enhancements which go to the state, the county courts, or other such usages.

    So really, after deducting the cost of the cameras, the city of LA is only raising perhaps $10 a ticket in revenue, but costing the motorists $500!

  • avatar

    Is there any way for citizens to overturn these stupid revenue generating laws? Why doesn’t every such bill have to be approved and voted on by the community before it passes?

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