The Truth About Cars » Red Light Camera The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Red Light Camera Garfield Heights Mayor Wants City To Become Red Light District, Again Tue, 19 Jul 2011 06:49:23 +0000

Last November, citizens of Garfield Heights, OH, banned the use of red light cameras in the city. The vote was close, 4,827 to throw the cameras out against  4,735 for keeping them. But presidencies were decided on a slimmer margin. The keeps the cams side had powerful support:  A PAC called “Safe Road Ohio” lobbied for the cameras, with the requisite pictures of little children.

According to the Plain Dealer, the primary donor of this PAC is “Redflex Traffic Systems — the company that operates the city’s camera program and pockets $35 from every speeding ticket issued.”  The Garfield Heights Council doesn’t seem to hold democracy in high esteem. Last week, the Council moved to bring the cameras back into the city.

According to The Neighborhood News, the city will ask voters to approve an amendment  that would allow cameras within 300 feet radius of school zones and city-owned parks and rec areas. This is the oldest trick in the book. I bet if you draw boundaries 300 feet from school zones, parks and rec areas, most places where cameras will bring in the desired revenue will fall within those lines. The city does not even hide that it is after money. “Safety and fiscal constraints” were cited as reasons to ask citizens to let the cameras back in.

One of the highest profile perpetrator of the school zone ploy was New York City’s then Mayor Giuliani, who drove strip clubs and porn shops out of most of the city by making the illegal “within 500 feet of churches, schools, day care centers and each other.” According to the Daily News, this “effectively banishes such businesses to the city’s industrial edges.” What’s good against red lights seems to work just as well for red lights.

Garfield Heights Mayor Vic Collova is listed as a co-chair of the pro-camera PAC. He had been warned not to “intermingle funds between his election campaign funds and the camera efforts.”




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Missouri: Judge Finds Red Light Camera Program Illegal Tue, 24 May 2011 14:00:58 +0000

A circuit court judge in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday ruled the city’s use of automated ticketing machines violated state law. Since 2007, St. Louis gave the private company American Traffic Solutions (ATS) the right to issue tickets worth more than $30 million to the registered owners of vehicles that are photographed at local intersections. A class action suit by several motorists challenged the program on various legal and constitutional grounds.

Circuit Judge Mark H. Neill rejected most arguments claiming the program violated due process rights, although he left open the possibility that the city failed to notify ticket recipients of their right to a hearing. The plaintiffs came much closer to success when arguing that the local ordinance violated a state law requiring all moving violations be reported to the state Department of Revenue so that license points could be imposed.

“Although the ordinance is not in direct conflict with the specific statutes cited by plaintiffs, the ordinance may still be invalid if the city did not have the proper authority to enact such an ordinance,” Judge Neill ruled. “Municipalities may not enact ordinances which are contrary to or conflict with state law… The use of an automated traffic control system to police traffic offenses is a drastic departure from the traditional police powers granted to municipalities; and as seen here, it raises a whole host of legal and constitutional issues. A municipality may only exercise its police powers under authority granted to it by the state.”

That grant has never been given Missouri. The state legislature has declined on several occasions to enact any law granting legal recognition to the use of cameras, despite a heavy lobbying effort by ATS lobbyists.

“Because the red light camera ordinance does not enact ‘rules of the road’ or ‘traffic regulations,’ the court finds, in absence of enabling legislation by the state of Missouri, that the city of St. Louis did not have authority to enact such an ordinance. Therefore, Ordinance Number 66868 is void,” Judge Neill concluded.

A close reading of the March 2010 state supreme court decision striking down Springfield’s red light camera hearing process indicated the court would look favorably on Judge Neill’s reasoning. The high court noted that Springfield had shortened the yellow timing at several intersections just prior to installing the cameras (view opinion). Oddly enough, the main law firm retained by ATS, Stinson Morrison Hecker, agreed with Judge Neill in a 2005 memo that stated red light camera tickets in Missouri would not hold up in a court of law (view full letter).

A copy of the decision is available in a 1.3mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Smith v. St. Louis (Missouri Circuit Court, 5/20/2011)


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Ohio Supreme Court Defends Traffic Camera Program Fri, 06 May 2011 13:32:47 +0000

Ohio’s supreme court has a long history of defending traffic tickets, whether they happen to be issued by police or a machine. The court on Wednesday maintained this tradition in tossing out a constitutional challenge to the photo enforcement hearing process, denying the challengers the chance to present their case in full.

The high court first upheld the right of municipalities to issue speed camera and red light camera tickets in 2008, even though the state legislature had decided against authorizing such programs (view ruling). Other decisions upheld police officer-issued speeding tickets based solely on a visual guess of the driver’s speed (view decision) and found that drivers who do nothing unsafe could still be ticketed (view opinion).

In this case, a group of motorists filed a class action lawsuit against Columbus arguing the city set up a “shadow” court system within the police department to handle traffic camera tickets and other ordinance violations as a mean of bypassing the municipal court. The General Assembly maintains the sole authority to establish municipal courts under the state constitution.

“The Franklin County Municipal Court has jurisdiction over absolutely all of Columbus’ red light ordinance violations… because municipal courts have jurisdiction over the violation of absolutely and unequivocally all municipal ordinances, even fully decriminalized ordinances which regulate the standing or parking of vehicles, except where the violation is required to be handled by a parking violations bureau,” attorney Paul M. Greenberger argued. “As a result, [the parties that run the Columbus red light camera hearings] are subject to the immediate issuance of a write of prohibition preventing them from exercising the judicial power over said violations which judicial power must be exercised by the judges of the Franklin County Municipal Court.”

The Columbus ordinance also states that the hearing officer’s decision may only be appealed to the municipal court and that any ruling by a Franklin County judge is “final and no other appeal may be taken.” The challengers argued this ran contrary to a state law which specified that municipal decisions could be challenged before the court of appeals.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor did not provide justification for her decision to dismiss the challengers’ argument. The Columbus city attorney moved for dismissal on the grounds that the direct appeal to the supreme court was improper.

“It is easy to see what the relators truly want — a declaration that Columbus’s ordinance is unconstitutional and an injunction forcing Columbus to return all the monies collected under the city’s traffic camera enforcement system,” City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr argued. “It is well established, however, that this court does not have jurisdiction over actions in which the real objects sought are declaratory and injunctive relief.”

A copy of the order granting dismissal is available in a PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Entry for Turner v. Brown, et al (Supreme Court of Ohio, 5/4/2011)


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Washington: Anti-Camera Referendum Spreads to Redmond Tue, 29 Mar 2011 14:08:35 +0000

The initiative effort to give voters a say in whether red light cameras and speed cameras are used has spread to a fifth city in Washington state. The group began circulating petitions in Redmond, kicking off an effort on Saturday to gather the 3845 signatures required to put the measure on the ballot. The referendum petition follows the language used in Bellingham, Longview, Monroe and Wenatchee where signatures have been gathered since January.

“The city of Redmond and for-profit companies contracted by the city of Redmond may not install or use automatic ticketing cameras to impose fines from camera surveillance unless such a system is approved by a majority vote of the city council and a majority vote of the people at an election,” Redmond Initiative Number One states.

If approved, the measure would repeal the council ordinance that authorized a five-year contract granting American Traffic Solutions the right to issue automated red light and speeding tickets on the city’s behalf. It then prohibits use of cameras unless a majority of Redmond voters approve of the installation. The tickets would then be limited to just $20 each, the amount of the least expensive parking ticket.

Redmond resident Scott Harlan is taking the lead in his home town, aided by the statewide coordination provided by Campaign for Liberty and Voters Want More Choices. The same team helped win 71 percent of voters banning cameras in Mukilteo in November.

Elsewhere in the country, Election Day saw cameras banned in Houston, Texas; Baytown, Texas; Anaheim, California; and Garfield Heights, Ohio. Photo enforcement has never survived when the question is put directly to voters. Last year, 61 percent of Sykesville, Maryland voters overturned a speed camera ordinance. In 2009, eighty-six percent of Sulphur, Louisiana rejected speed cameras, 72 percent said no in Chillicothe, Ohio; Heath, Ohio and College Station, Texas also rejected cameras. In 2008, residents in Cincinnati, Ohio rejected red light cameras. Seventy-six percent of Steubenville, Ohio voters rejected photo radar in 2006. In the mid-1990s, speed cameras lost by a two-to-one margin in Peoria, Arizona and Batavia, Illinois. In 1997, voters in Anchorage, Alaska banned cameras even after the local authorities had removed them. In 2003, 64 percent of voters in Arlington, Texas voted down “traffic management cameras” that opponents at the time said could be converted into ticketing cameras.


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Virginia: Rutherford Institute Takes on Red Light Cameras Mon, 06 Dec 2010 15:17:20 +0000

A civil rights think tank on Friday urged Albemarle County, Virginia to cancel its red light program. In a letter to county supervisors, the Rutherford Institute made the case that the contract the county entered into with Australian vendor Redflex Traffic Systems violates the law and will likely not achieve the stated goal of reducing accidents.

“The Redflex contract incorporates a so-called ‘cost-neutrality’ provision whereby the company’s compensation, up to the amount of the contractual monthly fee, hinges on the number of violations or monetary penalties imposed,” the group’s president, John W. Whitehead, wrote. “Regardless of how the fee arrangement is worded or structured, it is likely to be found in violation of Virginia law where the vendor has a financial incentive to ensure that a high number of citations are issued.”

Virginia Code section 15.2-968 specifically bans compensation based on the number of violations issued. The Rutherford Institute provides free legal representation to individuals as a conservative alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union. The group also cited safety concerns raised by a number of independent studies of photo enforcement’s effectiveness (view studies).

“The red light cameras are not proven to increase safety, and multiple studies indicate that they actually increase the number of crashes,” Whitehead wrote. “The hard evidence thus casts doubt on the claims that the purpose of the PhotoSafe program is to enhance traffic safety.”

In particular, the Virginia Department of Transportation concluded that accidents increased 29 percent in the Northern Virginia jurisdictions that used photo enforcement between 1995 and 2005 (view study). It is impossible for Albemarle to have an accident reduction at one of the two intersections selected for camera use because it has never had a single “red light running” related crash (view report). The institute suggested engineering alternatives would do more to increase safety.

“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, intersection safety would be increased by simply lengthening the yellow light time or adding an all-red light interval,” Whitehead wrote. “Rather than trading one type of crash for another as red light cameras do, increasing the duration of the yellow light is proven to be effective in actually enhancing intersection safety. Moreover, this cost-free means of achieving the county’s stated goal carries none of the costs to motorists’ privacy or community morale.”

The group concluded by pointing out that the Redflex marketing material highlights the expertise of the company in “generating more revenue” for local government, providing the strongest “return on investment” in the industry.

“It is clear that the ‘return on investment’ Redflex references is not an increase in traffic safety, but rather an increase in revenue generated by traffic offenses at the monitored intersections,” Whitehead wrote. “Whatever Albemarle County’s actual intentions are in this matter, Redflex’s stated goals for its system make the county’s business relationship with the company unseemly.”

The group asked county supervisors to re-evaluate the evidence and consider ending the red light camera program. A copy of the Rutherford Institute letter is available in a 275k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Albemarle County PhotoSafe Program Involving Red Light Cameras (Rutherford Institute, 12/3/2010)


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California: Red Light Camera Class Action Suit Advances Mon, 08 Nov 2010 15:04:44 +0000

A federal class action lawsuit seeks to take advantage of last month’s California Supreme Court’s red light camera decision. The high court let stand a lower court ruling that invalidated citations on the ground that the city of Santa Ana’s failed to provide the legally required warning periods before activating the automated ticketing machines (view ruling). Motorist Robert Plumleigh was forced to pay $480 on March 17, 2008 after a camera accused him of turning right at a red light at one of the sixteen intersections where the city failed to provide the required thirty-day warning period. He wants Santa Ana to refund all illegally issued tickets. US District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney on Wednesday gave Plumleigh’s lawyers an extra thirty days to file for class certification.

“City defendants have not reimbursed the fines that they forced and required plaintiffs pay, despite having issued the non-warning automated traffic camera citations to plaintiffs prior to instituting the thirty day warning notice period required under California Vehicle Code, section 21455.5(b),” Plumleigh’s lawyer, Mark P. Pifko, wrote in his brief to the court. “During the relevant time period, city defendants violated plaintiffs’ and class members’ rights under the Takings Clause of the California Constitution by taking plaintiffs’ and class members’ private property for public use without just compensation ascertained by a jury.”

The suit seeks a refund of every single ticket issued at those sixteen intersections between May 2003 and November 25, 2009. Last November, after losing on the warning issue in Orange County Superior Court court, the city finally decided to hold the required warning periods at every intersection. The class action suit names as defendants Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Waters, City Attorney Joseph W. Fletcher and Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the ticketing program.

“As a result of the Redflex defendants’ conduct, including, but not limited to, as discussed above, failing to comply with their agreed upon contractual obligations and California law, plaintiffs and class members have been harmed by Redflex defendants’ unlawful and unfair business acts and practices as alleged herein, including but not necessarily limited to suffering injury in fact and the loss of money and property,” Pifko wrote.

Redflex in response filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it cannot be held liable for violating the warning period statute because the law specifically applies to a “local jurisdiction,” not to a private company. Redflex also claims it has immunity from prosecution because its acts were performed in conjunction with official proceedings. A hearing on a motion to dismiss is scheduled for December 6.


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California Cities Attempt to Depublish Red Light Camera Decision Mon, 11 Oct 2010 14:02:20 +0000

In July, a three-judge panel of the appellate division of the Superior Court of California in Orange County ruled that red light camera tickets issued at certain intersections in Santa Ana were invalid because the city failed to provide legally required notice. The case was certified for publication, and last month the cities of Santa Ana and West Hollywood petitioned the state supreme court to undo this certification, which is extremely rare for photo ticketing programs. Unpublished cases cannot be cited as precedent in California, and motorists interested in challenging citations will have to repeat from scratch all arguments about the program’s illegality.

“The city of Santa Ana’s interest in depublication is based on the fact that the city of Santa Ana continues to operate a red light camera enforcement system throughout the city,” City Attorney Joseph W. Fletcher wrote in a September 21 letter to the high court. “The Park decision should not be published because the court’s interpretation of Vehicle Code Section 21455.5 is incorrect.”

On February 17, 2009, a Redflex-owned automated ticketing machine photographed the Toyota belonging to Danny Park and mailed a $436 citation. Park argued that although the city had provided a 30-day warning period at one location, Harbor Boulevard and McFadden in 2003, it offered no warning period at the intersection where he was photographed, Bristol Street and Segerstrom Avenue. Park argued that the plain language of the code required warning at each individual intersection.

“Prior to issuing citations under this section, a local jurisdiction utilizing an automated traffic enforcement system shall commence a program to issue only warning notices for 30 days,” California Vehicle Code section 21455.5 specifies. “The local jurisdiction shall also make a public announcement of the automated traffic enforcement system at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the enforcement program.”

A trial court found Park guilty, but the appellate division panel overturned the decision based on an interpretation of the word “system” that applies to each individual intersection.

“It would make little sense for the scope of the 30-day warning period to be limited temporally and to be defined arbitrarily by the geographic size of the local jurisdiction, inasmuch as the legislatively stated purpose of the warning requirement is to deter red light violations,” Judge Gregory H. Lewis wrote for the court. “This purpose is best achieved by the issuance of new warnings and announcements to proximate users each time automated enforcement equipment commences operation at an intersection. Because the record in this case shows a lack of compliance with the requirement of Vehicle Code section 21455.5, subdivision (b), that a municipality utilizing an automated enforcement system at an intersection comply with the prescribed warning requirements ‘prior to issuing citations,’ the conviction must be reversed.”

On September 9, the state court of appeal denied Santa Ana’s request to overturn the decision. A copy of the July decision is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File California v. Park (Orange County Superior Court, Appellate division, 7/23/2010)


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Louisiana: Parish Red Light Camera Program Caught in Bogus Billing Scandal Fri, 08 Oct 2010 13:50:46 +0000

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s investigation of the Jefferson Parish payroll wrapped up Wednesday, revealing that the parish’s red light camera program was at the center of a scandal that drew the interest of federal investigators. Auditors concluded that former parish President Aaron Broussard and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson likely violated payroll fraud statutes.

“We have audited certain transactions of the Jefferson Parish Government… to determine the propriety of certain financial transactions,” Legislative Auditor Daryl G. Purpera explained.

Steve Mortillaro was hired on March 2008 as a part-time assistant parish attorney and was to be the traffic camera hearing officer. Broussard assigned him to defense work on a traffic camera lawsuit, but there is no evidence that he actually did any work at all. Mortillaro still pocketed $23,213 in public money.

“Because Mr. Mortillaro could not provide any documentation of his work for the parish, he may have been paid for work he did not perform,” the audit stated.

Mortillaro denies having done anything wrong.

“I have spent much time researching and studying the parish laws relative to the red light cameras ordinance, preparing myself for the eventual call to become a hearing officer,” Mortillaro wrote in a March 3 letter to parish President Steve Theriot.

Improprieties in the red light camera program drew the interest of federal authorities. On January 26, Jim Letten, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, ordered the parish to preserve all of its records as part of a federal criminal grand jury investigation.

Interim Parish President Stephen Theriot suspended the red light camera program after documents revealed that Redflex paid 3.2 percent of its revenue from ticket proceeds to lobbyist Bryan Wagner, a former New Orleans city councilman, who shared the funds with the wife of District Judge Robert Murphy. Wagner was set to earn an estimated $90,000 a year from his cut of the photo tickets. Jay Morris Specter, 55, the lobbyist who hired Wagner on behalf of Redflex, is scheduled for release from an Atlanta halfway house on October 21 after having serving time for fraud at Edgefield Federal Correctional Institution in South Carolina.


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California: Another City Admits Accidents Not Reduced By Red Light Cameras Tue, 24 Aug 2010 13:54:00 +0000

Under court order, Redwood City, California was forced to admit that the red light camera installed at Whipple Avenue and Veterans Boulevard in March 2008 have done absolutely nothing to reduce traffic collisions. San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford V. Cretan instructed the city council to respond to a civil grand jury report from June that blasted municipal programs throughout the county that raised $13.8 million from ticketing despite the lack of evidence of any safety benefit (read report).

The Redwood City Council will vote Monday to approve a draft response created in close consultation with Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the Redwood City program. Under the signature of Police Chief Louis A. Cobarruviaz, the letter ignores every substantial recommendation offered by the grand jury. For example, because the number of accidents is not going down, the city disagreed with the grand jury recommendation that the city measure the program’s ongoing effectiveness by the number of collisions before and after camera installation. The grand jury insisted that the city council be provided a regular update on these rates on at least an annual basis, but no such report has been implemented.

“While the number of red light violation-related collisions at the approaches have not had a significant change since the installation of the red light cameras, it would appear the city’s camera systems are reducing the number of red light violations as the number of violations recorded have dropped since their installation,” the draft response letter stated.

The number of violations recorded also decreases as motorists avoid intersections known to have red light cameras. Equipment malfunctions, repairs and vandalism can also reduce the number of violations recorded. The city also blasted the grand jury for implying that the program appeared more concerned with revenue than accident reduction.

“The current revenue realized by the city is surprisingly low compared to expected projections,” the draft response stated.

The city claimed it “had significant difficulty obtaining its portion of the fines from San Mateo County,” which collected $1.7 million in 2008 and $3.2 million in 2009. Redwood City routinely assigned employees involved in other tasks to the red light camera program account to inflate the estimates of the program “cost” — even though the full cost of the program by contract is borne by Redflex. The city also rejected the grand jury finding that it was imposing $446 tickets on minor “California roll” stops at intersections that have little impact on safety.

“The city is unaware of the number of violations for failure to stop before making a right turn in other cities; however, a significant portion of citations issued from the city’s red light cameras are for that violation,” the draft response stated.

To prevent motorists from being unknowingly trapped by such tickets at the enforced intersections, the grand jury recommended signage at each location so that motorists would know right-hand turns would be ticketed. The city has absolutely no interest in providing such warning.

“The city does not have signage at each intersection because it is not required by statute,” the response stated.

Source: PDF File Response to San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Repor (Redwood City, California, 8/21/2010)


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Minneapolis Sues Redflex Over Camera Ticket Refund Thu, 05 Aug 2010 14:44:08 +0000

Minneapolis, Minnesota is angry enough at being forced to refund $2.6 million in red light camera tickets that it has filed a lawsuit against the private company it hired to issue those citations. The city last month filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County Court to recover damages, but Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia yesterday asked the US District Court for the District of Minnesota to take over the case.

“The constitutionality of the (city) ordinance was challenged and the Minnesota Supreme Court held it was pre-empted by state law (view decision),” Minneapolis City Attorney Susan L. Segal wrote in a brief to the county court. “As a result of that challenge, the city incurred substantial losses.”

Minneapolis wants that money back. It had contracted with Redflex on March 14, 2005 for a “turn-key service contract… inclusive of all hardware, software and support service required to implement and maintain the system” which consisted of a dozen automated ticketing machines. The contract required that Redflex abide by all state and federal laws and to indemnify the city against all legal liability from court challenges to the program. According to the state’s highest court, the city had no legal authority to allow Redflex to issue traffic citations. It was forced to settle a class action lawsuit filed by Willard Shapira by agreeing to refund every citation.

“The city has incurred substantial expenses, costs and attorney’s fees as a result of the Shapira lawsuit and the pre-emption of the ordinance, independent of the reimbursement of fine revenue,” Segal wrote.

This, however, was not the end of the financial burdens for Minneapolis. After the cameras were installed, Redflex got caught in a billing dispute between the contractor responsible for the installation work, Network Electric, and its subcontractor, Collins Electrical Systems. Collins was supposed to be paid by Network Electric, but it did not receive payment. As a result, Collins sued the city and a judge ordered the city to pay $163,516.48 in unpaid bills and $181,804 in legal costs to the subcontractor. The city argues that, by contract, these costs must be paid by Redflex.

“The city was not to provide any monies for installation, had no responsibility for the installation or performance of any electrical work, and had no privity of contract or any relationship with any subcontractors Redflex hired,” Segal wrote. “Now, as a result of Redflex’s negligence in failing to procure a payment bond, judgment has been entered against the city for the remaining payment owed to Collins. The city has paid the remaining payment to Collins, which is more than its fair share.”

Minneapolis did not provide a damage figure in its filing, but based on the losses described, it could exceed $3 million. The Redflex filing is available in a 255k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Notice of Removal (Before the US District Court, Minnesota, 8/4/2010)


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California Court of Appeal Publishes Red Light Camera Hearsay Decision Tue, 27 Jul 2010 14:16:51 +0000

California’s second highest court on Wednesday upheld the publication status of a key decision that called into question the legitimacy of red light camera evidence. The state Court of Appeal rejected the request of the cities of Santa Ana and Menlo Park to depublish a May appellate ruling of the Orange County Superior Court (view the California v. Khaled decision) that found the red light camera photographs presented as evidence in court were inadmissible hearsay.

Attorney R. Allen Baylis objected to the admission of the photos because the city had failed to lay a proper evidentiary foundation. The police officer who presented the information in court did nothing more than read from a sheet of paper handed to him by the Australian firm Redflex which contracts with Santa Ana and several other cities. The officer had no independent knowledge either of the incident in question nor did he have direct knowledge of whether the camera had been functioning properly.

Although a number of California courts have struck down red light camera citations on various legal grounds, none of them has been published (see the cases of Franco, Murray, Graham, Williams and Bohl). Publication affords a decision the ability to stand within a county as precedent. In court filings, the League of California Cities suggested that allowing such rulings to stand with precedential value would force them to issue refunds or cancel their programs outright, costing millions.

Attorney Frank Iwama, a former deputy attorney general for the state, has beaten nineteen of the $494 tickets for his clients in San Mateo county. He successfully argues that cities in San Mateo are operating under illegal contingent-fee contracts with the private firms American Traffic Solutions and Redflex.

“I believe the Orange County Superior Court Appellate Division’s decision in People v. Khaled, certified for publication, is a wake up call for photo enforcement companies and local cities in California to seriously address evidentiary and constitutional issues with regard to the use of photo/videotape evidence in red light camera cases,” Iwama told TheNewspaper. “Together with the ‘cost neutrality’ contract defense, the Khaled decision presents serious challenges to the use of red light cameras in California.”

The state supreme court is now poised to issue a ruling on the legality of contingent-fee red light camera contracts after issuing a decision yesterday in a related contingent-fee case.


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New Mexico: City Expands Traffic Cameras Despite Accident Increase Wed, 12 May 2010 14:03:59 +0000

The Las Cruces, New Mexico city council voted Monday to partially obey a New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to remove red light cameras and speed cameras from the state right-of-way by May 18. State officials are concerned with the negative impact that the devices have on safety, but Las Cruces officials emphasized the need to “work around” the state in expanding the red light camera program even though the city has seen an increase in accidents where photo enforcement has been installed.
“I don’t think we want to go to court with DOT commissioners over the red light cameras at Solano and Main,” City Councilor Dolores Connor said. “I guess we need to abide with their rules and move off of that location.”

Currently, Redflex runs the dual speed and red light cameras at four locations. The council agreed to ask Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company that owns and operates the cameras, to deactivate the intersection of Main Street and Solano Drive. Although NMDOT ordered cameras down at the lucrative Valley Drive and Avenida de Mesilla intersection, Las Cruces will only take one of them down, claiming that a second device is located within the city’s jurisdiction. It will also add mobile speed camera vans to increase the number of citations issued citywide.

The safety results do not appear to provide a basis for expansion. Comparing a year’s worth of data before the devices were installed at three intersections to a year after, the number of collisions increased 13 percent from 53 to 60. The largest increase was in property damage accidents while injury collisions did not reduce significantly. The numbers would have looked even worse had the city included results from the intersection of Lohman and Telshor where officials claimed “construction” caused the significant increase in accidents. On the other hand, the city finance department estimated that the cameras would generate $5,012,847 in revenue through fiscal 2011.

Although most of the city council supports photo enforcement, Redflex has lost so many camera contracts this year that it would likely exercise its contract to prevent the city from ending the camera program entirely.

“We are very interested in working with the city,” Redflex account director Bob Warner said. “If the city were to take the position that they would not want to continue with the cameras, that would have to be something our executive committee would have to take a look at.”


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Virginia Governor Kicks Off Massive Photo Enforcement Expansion Tue, 27 Apr 2010 14:20:06 +0000

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed into law last week a proposal that would create an entirely new form of automated ticketing machine, an “airport business” camera. The move followed his approval last month of legislation designed specifically to revive his state’s moribund red light camera program.

Beginning in July, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will have the authority to hire a private company to operate a photo enforcement system that would mail tickets worth a maximum of $600 each to the owners of vehicles accused of using the Dulles Access Highway while not on “airport business” (view legislation). This fourteen-mile free road is adjacent to a toll route, but is designed solely for the use of people driving to Dulles international Airport or patronizing a nearby hotel and gas station. The authority intends to raise a significant amount of money by accusing motorists of improperly using the road. The airport authority has not explained how it will know whether the road’s users have a legitimate purpose or not, but the law leaves it to ticket recipients to prove their own innocence.

“Proof of a violation of the authority regulation governing the use of the Dulles Access Highway shall be evidenced by information obtained from the photo-monitoring system or automatic vehicle identification system,” House Bill 1295 states. “A summons issued under this section, which describes a vehicle that… is alleged to have been operated in violation of the authority regulation governing usage of the Dulles Access Highway, shall be prima facie evidence that such vehicle was operated in violation of the authority regulation.”

Another law taking effect in July, House Bill 1292, was specifically designed to encourage local jurisdictions to deploy red light cameras. Under a prior law, private photo enforcement firms were not allowed to directly access confidential information in Department of Motor Vehicle databases. The latter provision raised the cost of automated ticketing to the point where the programs would not turn a profit. Although nearly a dozen cities had enacted red light camera ordinances, only Virginia Beach went to the expense of operating a program with police officers handling the DMV information instead of a private contractor.

The city of Alexandria even announced a start date for its red light camera program and had functional cameras installed, but it declined to begin issuing tickets over the DMV provision. As first reported in the Washington Times, Alexandria officials also shortened the duration of the yellow light at the intersection of South Patrick Street and Gibbon Street in anticipation of camera enforcement. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, shortening the yellow at an intersection by one second can increase the number of tickets issued by 110 percent (view study).

In March 1999, the yellow time at the intersection in question was 4.0 seconds. The four-second timing reflected an increase from a prior setting that yielded, according to city officials at the time of the change, a massive drop in the number of tickets.

“At both Patrick/Gibbon and Seminary/Nottingham other factors significantly contributed to steep drops in our rate of red light running,” Mark Canoyer with the Alexandria Police Department wrote in a 2001 email reprinted in a VDOT report. “In the case of Patrick and Gibbon the cause was a retiming of the lights immediately preceding this intersection which had a profound impact. Similarly, the retiming of the yellow phase at Seminary and Nottingham had a dramatic effect.”

Despite the documented safety benefit from the increase, the intersection now has a signal timing lowered to 3.0 seconds — the absolute minimum allowed under federal law. Engineer Robert M. Garbacz certified this timing as appropriate in Alexandria’s February 19, 2008 application to re-start its red light camera ticketing program. VDOT accepted the signal shortening without question. The Virginia General Assembly voted to allow red light cameras in 2007, despite a report from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) that found that use of automated enforcement resulted in a significant increase in injuries and accidents (view study).

A copy of Alexandria’s red light camera application is available in a 625k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Engineering Safety Analysis Template (City of Alexandria, Virginia, 2/19/2008)


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California: City Fined $250,000 Over Botched Red Light Camera Program Mon, 26 Apr 2010 13:42:28 +0000

Red light camera program troubles continue to grow in South San Francisco, California. On Wednesday, the city council will meet to discuss how to pay the $250,000 bill submitted by the San Mateo County Superior Court to cover the administrative costs of processing $3 million worth of red light camera citation refunds. Because the city failed to properly ratify its contract with American Traffic Solutions, the company in charge of automated ticketing, the 6800 tickets issued between August 14 2009 and February 28, 2010 were declared invalid by the court.

“The city will also return to the court the portion of the fines that it has previously received related to the dismissed citations,” City Attorney Steven T. Mattas explained in a memo to the council. “Staff will make these payments to the court within five days of approval of this agreement…. The city is also responsible for any ‘actual and necessary’ administrative costs connected with the issuance of the refunds.”

The quarter-million figure represents only an estimate of the costs involved, and the final amount could be greater. Refunds include the $446 cost of the ticket, plus interest calculated at a 7-percent annual rate, and the full cost of traffic school that any driver may have taken to avoid points on his license. Those who did not attend a school will have the license points manually removed from their driving record. In California, the superior court system is responsible for dividing up the profit from each citation among a number of city, state and county agencies. Because the court does not hold the cash for more than a month, it has asked the city to supply $1.5 million to begin the refunds. Court administrators will negotiate with the state for the return of its portion of the citation revenue. If the state fails to send a check, the court will withhold the correct amount from future traffic ticket payments.

“In addition, issuance of the unauthorized citations caused the court unnecessary expense, in the amount of a $4.81 per-citation financial charge, which it paid the vendor that ordinarily processes its traffic citations,” the agreement with the San Mateo court explained.

Despite the hassle already experienced, the city council narrowly voted to continue the red light camera program. A copy of the proposed agreement between the city and the superior court is available in a 1.1mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Agreement Between South San Francisco and Superior Court (City of South San Francisco, California, 4/21/2010)

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Los Angeles Profits From Right Turn Trap Fri, 23 Apr 2010 13:32:41 +0000

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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California: Legislation Would Create Green Light Cameras Wed, 21 Apr 2010 14:33:51 +0000

Red light cameras in the state of California originally were first used to issue tickets to the owners of vehicles that entered an intersection after the light had turned red. In just the past few years, the cameras have shifted focus and now primarily ticket the owners of vehicles that make rolling right-hand turns on a red light. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) wants to further transform the system by introducing green light cameras. The new system, which initially would only operate at a single intersection in Ammiano’s district, would target people who turn right while the light is green.

“The city and county of San Francisco may utilize an automated traffic enforcement system to enforce a violation of subdivision (d) of Section 22101, from Market Street onto the Central Freeway located at the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard,” Assembly Bill 2729 states.

Ammiano introduced the bill at the request of bicycle activists who succeeded in prohibiting right-hand turns at the intersection in question, but existing law does not allow the use of automated machines to issue tickets to cars making turns while the light is green. Despite the push for introducing the new form of enforcement, there is no evidence that such the devices would have any positive impact on safety. No such camera has been used in the US. Some groups have suggested that there are more effective alternatives.

“The auto clubs have expressed a concern with the significant expansion of automated enforcement represented by this bill,” the official legislative analysis of AB2729 explained. “They cite a history of abuse surrounding the use of automated enforcement and a growing objection by the public for this form of enforcement. Consequently, they suggest that engineering solutions be used on an expedited basis to remedy what they acknowledge to be a significant safety problem, rather than expanding the use of automated enforcement. There has traditionally been a high degree of discomfort among legislators as well as the public at large with automated traffic enforcement technology in general.”

An attempt at the beginning of the year by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to implement a statewide speed camera program to help balance the budget met with silence in the Democrat-controlled assembly. An Assembly Transportation Committee hearing scheduled for Monday on Ammiano’s bill was postponed.

A copy of the legislation is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Assembly Bill 2729 (California State Assembly, 4/21/2010)


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