By on June 25, 2009

The Ventura County, California, Grand Jury on Monday slammed the city of Ventura for using a short yellow light cycle to trap motorists at at the intersection of California Street and Thompson Boulevard. The intersection’s red light camera snaps $1.5 million worth of tickets each year. Of the city’s eighteen automated ticketing machines, only the one located at that intersection consistently tops the charts. In just three months, Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems red light camera installation issued 825 tickets worth $435 each, or a total of 9.3 tickets per day. In comparison, a camera located at Mills Road and Main Street only issued 49 tickets over the same period. When taking traffic volumes into account, that means the California and Thompson camera issued citations at a rate one hundred times greater than Mills and Main (9.3 tickets per 10,000 passing vehicles compared to a rate of 0.09). And now we know why.

The grand jury’s report found that California and Thompson had the shortest yellow time of any intersection in the city— although the three second yellow light cycle meets the absolute minimum allowed by state and federal law.

“California Street has three traffic signal-controlled intersections,” the report stated. “The grand jury observed that the yellow light interval at the north and south approaches to California and Thompson had the shortest duration, one full second shorter than other yellow light intervals at intersections on the same street having the same posted speed limit.”

The grand jury is a group of about two dozen individuals who serve for a year with both criminal trial duties and the ability to investigate county business. When they do so, they “may ask for support and advice from superior court, district attorney’s office, county counsel or outside consultants.” In this case, the jurors interviewed police officials from Ventura and Oxnard who handle inquiries regarding the photo ticketing program run by Redflex. The jurors were also escorted to red light camera locations.

The grand jury report accepted selective and partial sets of data that police claimed showed accident reductions. It also cited the 2001 insurance industry report on red light cameras in Oxnard that has been discredited by the Weekly Standard and the University of South Florida. Based on the Oxnard claims, the grand jury endorsed the continued use of cameras as long as yellow times are increased.

“The grand jury also recommends that Oxnard and Ventura investigate traffic engineering measures, in addition to the installation of ‘red light cameras’ to address the safety concerns of red light running.”

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5 Comments on “California Grand Jury Slams [Legal] Red Light Cameras...”


  • avatar
    kaleun

    whne i came to the US from Germany i enjoyed the longer “yellow phases”. In Germany there is a 1 second or so… of course there are red light cameras everywhere and now I know why the Germans made the yellow so short, to make money! It is very hard to be the last one crossing the intersection without being ticketed.

    I don’t mind speed cameras, red light cameras as long as they are used in a civil way without making the streets less safe…. but the way they do it it just increases violations (=tickets) and rear end accidents.

    Same for speed cameras, In Germany they put a speed limit on a mile of autobahn (surrounded by no-limit autobahn) just to put a speed camera there. I’m sure if Americans learn one thing from Europe, it is how to boobie-trap car drivers.

    they can speed-camera the entire interstate system if they want, as long as they had a reasonable speed limit of 80 mph or so. but the 65 speed limit prevailing in many states is just designed to make money. (and for Buick drivers)

  • avatar
    commando1

    While reading this, I found it amusing that the accompanying Google ad was from a condom maker.
    Now if the city of Ventura would just use some lube…

  • avatar
    B.C.

    I lived in Ventura briefly, thankfully close to the 101 so I could get the hell out without taking any local streets. The worst part about the red light cameras was that some of the intersections had VERY deep rain gutters crossing them and VERY short green AND yellow light times (Main St/Lemon Grove Ave); you had to rush through the intersection to make the light, which meant sending the car and everything inside flying.

  • avatar
    tauronmaikar

    Good, not hopefully some court will also rule illegal to have speed traps and while you are at it perhaps they will also end profiteering by posting ridiculously low speed limits that do nothing to prevent accidents.

  • avatar
    Different View

    I read the whole report and hardly consider this a “slam”. In fact a primary conclusion was that “RLC enforcement has been effective in reducing the total number of traffic collisions at RLC-enforced intersections, even considering a possible increase in rear-end accidents”. That conclusion resulted in the recommendation that the two cities “should continue to address public safety concerns with the use of RLCs as an enhancement to traditional enforcement of red light violations by uniformed police officers.”

    Another recommendation was to increase the yellow light interval at one intersection to be at least equal to that of the surrounding intersections which are both above the statutory minimum setting.

    The only other slam I saw was the City of Ventura isn’t making a ton of money on this program. Seems to me like they just want a safer environment and be able to travel around without the ultimate slam of injuries affecting their citizens.

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