Voters in eight cities in three states cast ballots Tuesday to decide whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in their communities. Seven of the races went against the use of photo ticketing.
The night’s first results came from Ashtabula, Ohio where 60 percent of residents approved an amendment to the city charter stating that the city “shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device” unless a police officer personally issues the citation.
“I feel that the citizens of Ashtabula stood up,” Mark Leatherman, chairman of the Citizens of Ashtabula Camera Committee told TheNewspaper. “We had the police chief attacking and fighting citizens on this issue on Facebook. We stuck to our guns to get this passed.”
Many Florida municipalities now regret jumping the gun and installing red light cameras before the state legislature authorized their use in 2010. The Hallandale Beach city commission will vote later today to approve a settlement of $375,566 to be repaid to vehicle owners who were mailed tickets before the program was actually legal. American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which controlled the program, will pay $43,221 — its proportional share of the amount.
A Missouri appellate court judge with family ties to the red light camera industry yesterday led the charge to save photo ticketing programs from legal attack. In a per curiam decision, Eastern District Presiding Judge Robert G. Dowd Jr and two colleagues upheld the ticket issued by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to motorist Mary Nottebrok in Creve Coeur on August 11, 2009.
“Ordinance Number 315.140 did not prohibit ‘running a red light;’ rather, Ordinance Number 315.140 prohibited the presence of a vehicle in an intersection when the traffic control signal for that intersection was emitting a steady red signal for the direction of travel or orientation of the vehicle,” the decision stated in defense of Creve Coeur’s photo enforcement ordinance.
A report released last week by the engineering firm Gibson Traffic Consultants (GTC) found the use of red light cameras unjustified in Bellingham, Washington. The study gathered collision data from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the city to conclude the use of an automated ticketing machine at the intersection of Guide Meridian Road at Telegraph Road was unwarranted.
After news spread that paying a red light camera tickets in Los Angeles County, California is optional, the average number of people paying citations declined by nearly a third. According to an analysis of Los Angeles County Superior Court payment transaction count and revenue data by TheNewspaper, the state, Los Angeles County, municipalities and photo enforcement vendors are losing $1 million per month following the revelation that there is no penalty for tossing a mailed ticket in the trash. The news broke as part of the hearing process while Los Angeles municipal officials debated whether to shut off automated ticketing machines in the City of the Angels.
“What we have here is truly a voluntary citation program,” Los Angeles Police Commissioner Alan J. Skobin said at a June 7 meeting. “It’s voluntary because there’s no teeth in it and there’s no enforcement mechanism.”
Add Colorado Springs, Colorado to the growing list of cities having second thoughts about the use of red light cameras. On Tuesday, interim Police Chief Pete Carey discussed his intention to drop the year-old program as the contract with vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) expires at the end of the year. The mayor, who asked the previous chief to step down, is behind the move.
“The photo red-light enforcement program did not meet our expectations,” Mayor Steve Bach said in a statement. “It is as simple as that. If a safety program can’t be shown to improve safety, it ought to be stopped.”
A King County, Washington court is unwilling to allow the public to have any input into the question of whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in Redmond. In a ruling yesterday, Judge Laura Inveen quashed the 6050 signatures that had been filed by city residents who wanted the issue to be presented to voters — even if only as a non-binding advisory question. Photo enforcement opponents meanwhile have been mounting their own counter-offensive, hoping the state supreme court will resolve the contradictory legal rulings in the lower courts.
California Governor Jerry Brown (D) sided on Friday with red light camera companies and the remaining municipalities that use automated ticketing machines. He vetoed a measure that would have placed the mildest of restrictions on photo ticketing.
“I am returning Senate Bill 29 without my signature,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “This bill standardizes rules for local governments to follow when installing and maintaining red light cameras. This is something that can and should be overseen by local elected officials.”
A red light camera company and officials in the city of Baytown, Texas are conspiring to nullify the results of an election. In November, 58 percent of voters approved a ballot measure prohibiting the use of red light cameras unless a police officer is present to witness any alleged offense. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) filed suit in February to overturn the result of this vote, and city officials on September 22 asked Harris County Judge Michael D. Miller to sign off on a settlement of this suit that was prepared by ATS.
The city of Redmond, Washington decided last week that it had no intention of putting the issue of red light cameras and speed cameras to a vote of the people. The mayor refuses to transmit the completed petition signatures for an initiative on the topic to the county auditor, despite a state law that sets a three-day deadline for the city administration to do so. On Tuesday, Redmond police released data that show accidents have increased since at (Read More…)
Photo enforcement advocates downplay the benefit of increased yellow time in addressing the problem of red light running. New evidence from Arnold, Missouri shows that red light cameras continue to flash at a much lower rate since the state mandated longer signal timing at a number of photo-enforced intersections.
Arnold was the first jurisdiction in the Show Me State to allow a private company, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), to mail traffic tickets to residents. Since 2005, ATS has handed out more than 30,000 tickets worth over $3.1 million. In 2010, tickets were being pumped out at an average rate of 800 per month. With longer yellows, that figure averaged just 113 through July and August using the most up-to-date data available. (Read More…)
Cities that use automated ticketing machines at intersections routinely assert two things: The camera does not lie, and at least three humans review each citation before it is dropped in the mail. That did not happen in Port Lavaca, Texas. On September 12, Port Lavaca Police Sergeant Kelly Flood signed a ticket accusing Dale Price of running a red light and demanding he pay $75 by October 12, but the light was green.
“Based upon my review and inspection of the recorded images, I state that a violation of ordinance #S-1-08 did occur,” the ticket stated just above Flood’s signature. “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Texas the foregoing is true and correct.”
Red light cameras and speed cameras may not be legally operating in Lafayette, Louisiana, according to current and former city officials. Councilman William G. Theriot was first to suggest that the city-parish President Joey Durel did not have the authority to unilaterally extend the contract with Australian automated ticketing vendor Redflex Traffic Systems when the agreement expired in June.
“I think a lot of people want to have a say so in what’s involved in it,” Theriot told KATC-TV. “Secondly if it is extended, we don’t know if the terms were negotiated or what was involved.”
[Editor’s note: The following was sent to us by Donald Sawicki of Copradar.com, a site where Mr Sawicki offers insight and literature on radar and red light camera safety issues to victims, defendants and legal professionals.]
The first step towards determining if a red light camera exists to make money is to answer the question: Does the traffic light force drivers that just happen to be in the wrong spot (worst case) when the light changes yellow to brake safely (worst spot at worst time)? If the answer is “safe braking for worst case” the camera probably exists for legitimate reasons of safety. If the yellow light forces unsafe or even dangerous worst case braking, the camera is strictly a source of money (a dangerous tax) that goes to cities or states and equipment suppliers (which typically split the booty). To catch (trap, trick, hook or crook) more redlight runners some municipalities shorten the yellow time forcing drivers (even NEAR worse case distance) to run the light. It gets worse: many jurisdictions use outdated driver reaction times (some established over half a century ago) when determining yellow duration, resulting in short yellow light times and unsafe worse case braking.
Lawyers for motorists in Missouri are looking to capitalize on recent discoveries regarding deceptive marketing campaigns orchestrated by red light camera companies. On Wednesday, The Simon Law Firm filed a class action lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and the city of Hazelwood seeking refunds for thousands of photo enforcement tickets issued without the sanction of state law.
“In bringing this class action, plaintiffs seek to expose what they and other Missouri citizens believe is an unscrupulous business venture between an out-of-state for-profit corporation and a municipal government seeking to fill city coffers,” attorneys Ryan A. Keane and John E. Campbell wrote.