By on April 21, 2010

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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12 Comments on “California: Legislation Would Create Green Light Cameras...”

  • avatar

    wait a minute it isn’t legal to make a right hand turn if the light in front of you is green?

  • avatar

    At first I thought this was some sort of ‘Onion-style’ red light camera parody. Then I saw the attachment. Why doesn’t California just step up their game and ban right turns at intersections completely? There, problem solved! Then they’d have time to focus on what I see as the more serious left-turn issue. Once turning is eliminated, they can save money on cars by getting rid of the steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar

      I got a memorable ticket in downtown Toronto from a police officer who bagged me making a right on a green at Queen and Yonge. On Christmas Eve. $110.

      He then proceeded the nail me because my insurance slip had a different postal code than my driver’s license (another $110), because one of my license-plate lights was out ($110). He was fishing for other items, too.

      Did I mention he was a K9 cop? Did I mention the Christmas Eve? Green? Right turn?

      This is why I prefer cameras: I’m not going to be the target of a cop who’s pissed off about working a holiday and/or has a quota fill and wants to bunk off early

    • 0 avatar

      Holy s**t. That is one crappy evening. I would have been furious, and fought those tickets in court until they begged for mercy. Right turn on green is completely legal, so I don’t get why you were stopped initially. Unless the WALK light was still on and there were pedestrians in the crosswalk? I in no way wish to minimize what happened to you, but you can at least argue with a cop in court, and maybe get a judge to see this for what it was. A traffic camera, not so much…

    • 0 avatar

      You can’t make a right turn from Yonge to Queen at any time. You have to go up to another street and turn there. It has to do with congestion management and pedestrian traffic: if you know

      I will buy that, but Christmas Eve with no traffic around? Come on!

      As for fighting it: my experience with traffic court is that, if the officer shows up, you do not win. You might get bargained down, but that’s it.

      My experience with officers on fishing expeditions has really soured me on the idea of traffic enforcement by actual humans: if it’s not about safety, and it’s all at someone’s discretion, and if you have no chance in court, why not use cameras? At least with a camera I can go back and check it’s accuracy with tests, something I can’t do with a cop who keeps two notebooks.

    • 0 avatar

      @ psarhajinian

      So you committed a moving violation that you knew to be a moving violation at the time you committed it, failed to keep your insurance documents up to date as required by law, and failed to maintain the equipment on your vehicle as required by law, yet the officer who stopped you is the jerk and you think he should be replaced with a machine from which there is no mercy, no discretion, and serves only to enrich both the municipality and the pirates who build, service, and monitor the machines at the expense of all of the driving public at large?

      That’s just silly on so many levels. Ultimately, discretion helps more people than it hurts.

  • avatar

    You just can’t prove who was driving.

  • avatar

    Once turning is eliminated, they can save money on cars by getting rid of the steering wheel.

    Well, there’s still the problem of Lombard Street….

  • avatar

    “Psarhjinian” suggests that with traffic cams he is protected from cops and their personal agendas. Others have suggested that cameras stop allegations of favoritism or racism.

    I disagree.

    I think cameras make favoritism the “default” condition, and make racism nearly impossible to detect.

    Bureaucrats and govt. “insiders” favored by default: An April 2008 Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California) article pointed out that in California there are nearly one million private vehicles having “confidential” license plate numbers that are protected from easy or efficient look up, thus are effectively invisible to agencies attempting to process parking, toll, and red light camera violations. In 2009 the Register reported that the legislature was extending the “confidential” treatment to even more people! I am guessing that such “protected plate” lists exist in many states.

    Drunks favored by default: If a live cop sees Psarhjinian run a red, and Mr. “P” was drinking at the time, he will go to jail for a DUI – and I like that. But the camera will let him off with a small money fine, and nothing will be done about his habit of drinking and driving until he causes an accident or kills someone.

    Uninsured favored by default: If a live cop pulls Mr. P over, he will check for insurance, and confiscate the car if there is none. But with a camera ticket there is no demand to prove that you were insured. Why is that?

    Geographic profiling: Here in California, no city issues a ticket to 100% of the people photographed – the average is well below 50%. There is a selection process, done by humans. ( For example, in 2004 San Francisco photographed 29,335 cars but issued only 7943 tickets. Los Angeles, in 2003, photographed 8678 cars but issued 3981 tickets. Yes, I know these figures are old. But they remain typical.) We would hope that the police personnel doing the selection would throw out only the tickets where the photos are too blurry, but what is to stop them from giving a free pass to people who live (and vote) in town?

    Racial profiling: On the east coast (“owner responsibility” states), the camera tickets do not require a close up photo of the driver. But out here in the west (“driver responsibility” states), there has to be a good photo of the driver, and that “face photo” provides potential for racial profiling.

    I suggest that everywhere in the world the official rules for processing these tickets should include a requirement that the name, address, and face photo of the driver NOT be visible to the person making the decision whether the ticket is issued or not. I also suggest that there be a mechanism to assure that the insiders on the protected list get their proportionate share of tickets. (Right now there is a bill in California’s legislature to do just that. AB 2097.)

    • 0 avatar


      While I wish the world worked like ‘Law & Order’, I know better.

      Last week, one of my exes totalled her Firebird. On the highway. In a construction zone. While blackout drunk (ex, remember).

      As her half-brother is state-patrol, she woke up in a hospital, not a jail cell. Her totaled Firebird had a ticket on the windshield for “improper lane usage”.

      No DWI arrest(she’s been busted 20 times that I know of), no ‘construction zone’ fine, no big deal.

      Wonder why I am a cynic?

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