The California state Senate on Wednesday voted 63-11 to give final approval to a measure that will cut the fine for the most common type of red light camera violation in half. Under existing law, motorists who make safe, rolling right-hand turns at monitored intersections may receive a $500 bill in the mail from a private company operating on behalf of a municipality. In the past few years, the “California stop” at some locations have begun to account for up to 98 percent of automated ticketing machine citations.
Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced a brief, but complicated bill that he says will slash the fine for such turns from $500 to $250. It does so by reassigning turning violations to a code section carrying a $35 base fine as opposed to the current $100 base fine given to more serious violations. When state and county surcharges are added to the base amounts, the $35 fine becomes between $225 to $250 and the $100 fine between $450 and $500.
The League of California Cities strongly opposed the measure on monetary grounds, estimating that one-half of all tickets in the state go not for red light running but for turning right on red. The League called Hill’s fine reduction bill a “de facto prohibition” on camera use.
“With the same number of tickets being issued but with less revenue for operations, cities will simply decrease or eliminate red light camera operations,” League lobbyist Jennifer Whiting wrote in a letter to the Assembly Transportation Committee last week. “AB 909 would negatively affect cities’ ability to use automated traffic enforcement tools and potentially cost the state millions of dollars of lost revenue. It does not directly prohibit the use of red light cameras but the reduction of fees collected could make red light camera systems fiscally unfeasible. For these reasons, the League opposes this bill.”
Assemblyman Hill insisted that the rolling stop fine was never intended to be so high and that a drafting error in 1997 legislation placed rolling turns in the more expensive category. His change restores rolling right tickets to the same category as running a stop sign.
“This may be the most significant thing we can do for the people of California this year, given the budget situation,” Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) said in a statement.
As the Senate had passed the same bill 26 to 8 on August 12, the proposal will become law with the signature of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). A copy of the bill is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.