By on June 21, 2011

Not satisfied with impoverishing residents and unwary visitors with $500 automated tickets for being a tenth of a second late at a light, California’s legislators are moving a new bill allowing cities to reduce many posted speed limits by 5 mph. The lower limits will, in turn, allow them to shorten yellow lights, which will produce more red light camera tickets (four of the sponsoring cities have red light cameras).

And how many more tickets you ask? The shortening permitted by a 5 mph decrease in the posted limit will increase the number of tickets by an estimated 50% at least. Worse, the shortening will increase severe accidents, by an estimated 30%. (If you are wondering why the accident rate increases less than does the number of violations, it is because most of the severe intersection accidents occur multiple seconds after the light has gone red, involving a driver who has failed to see the red light, at all, because he is impaired by a medical condition, liquor, or drugs.)

Assembly Bill 529, by Assemblymember Michael Gatto (Glendale), is moving through Sacramento fast, with a critical hearing scheduled soon [latest version and tracking here].

If this bill passes in California, other states will likely follow suit. If you are concerned, phone your state legislators, as soon as you see this. It takes no more than a couple minutes per call. And then if you have more time, phone your auto club and ask them to oppose this bill – or anything like it in your state.

The bill in detail:

Every seven to ten years the city traffic engineer goes out to the street and uses a radar gun to measure the speed of 100 cars. Then he discards the 15 fastest cars. The speed of the fastest car remaining is the “85th percentile speed.” (AB 529 does not change this part of the survey process.)

Under present law, the engineer then rounds the 85th percentile speed to the nearest 5 mph increment, which can be up or down depending upon what the 85th percentile was found to be. That 5 mph increment becomes the posted speed limit, unless the engineer is able to cite a dangerous road condition that would not be visible to a driver (Cal. Vehicle Code Sec. 627 uses the phrase “conditions not readily apparent to the driver”), such as a higher-than-average accident rate or a hidden driveway. If the street is a dangerous one, the engineer can lower the posted limit to the next-lower 5 mph increment. Thus, an 85th of 33 or 34, normally posted as 35, can be lowered to 30 if there is a hidden danger or a high accident rate.

If AB 529 passes, no longer will the engineer be required to round to the nearest 5 mph increment. He will be allowed to round down, anytime he wishes, even if the street is a safe one; He will not need to cite a dangerous condition as justification. Thus, the speed limit on any (and potentially every) street having an 85th of 33 or 34 could be lowered from 35 down to 30 – even where there is a very low incidence of accidents. The same would apply to every street having an 85th of 38 or 39; The speed limit could be lowered from 40 down to 35.

[Courtesy: An editor of highwayrobbery.net]

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23 Comments on “AB 529: California’s Red Light Revenue Raid...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, folks, here’s what you get when you mix a) a huge budget crisis, b) taxpayers who won’t pay more but won’t accept less services, and c) lawmakers who share the same genitalia as Mr. Clean: backdoor taxes.

    Enjoy.

    Or maybe we should have a real conversation about what We The People want the government to spend money on, and then set taxes based on what is decided. If we can live with less services, we can pay less taxes. Or if we want more services, we can pay more. It ain’t rocket science. The problem here is that people want everything that government provides – that’s why the spending happens – but don’t want to pay for it.

    Case in point: here in Denver a few years back, voters soundly defeated a ballot proposal to spend something like a billion dollars to bring I-25 in Denver into the 21st century because (the horror) it would increase their state taxes a bit. But they DID vote for a new stadium for the Broncos, despite the fact that taxes were going up to pay for this little project too. And to fund the I-25 improvements, voters opted for bonds. That way, instead of We The People paying a few extra bucks on our state taxes for a few years, they could pay extra for the billion zillion years the bond was good for. Genius!

    This is the kind of mentality that gets us the sort of thing we see in this article.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      California in particular is screwed because they’ve (via referendum) effectively required a two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes but a simple 50% majority to raise spending. Hilarity ensues.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        California cities of Vernon, Bell and Vallejo have all had their dirty laundry made public – looting of public funds, extravagant spending, bankruptcy. Everyone knows California has a strong leftist bent, and now we’re seeing the price for that.

        CA is drowning in debt. The unions are protecting their turf (bloated retirement funding, protecting SEIU workers making above market rates for equivalent skill sets), so that leaves trying to grab even more money from us subjects. Here in LA, sales tax is 9.75%. I guess it’s just not enough. I suppose that when you have 30% of the country’s welfare recipients, you need more money.

        A real shame we can’t go bankrupt. Obama and the congress need to work on that, lest they get the call later this year or next for a state or city bailout. At this pace, it’s a question of when.

        If we are bailed out, a Greece like austerity plan should be mandated to help prevent this type of lunacy from occuring again.

    • 0 avatar
      ixim

      +1!

    • 0 avatar

      Part of California’s problem is mass immigration of low- and no-skilled workers. The average Californian family pays an extra ~$1,200 in taxes to finance ~$3,000 worth of transfers to the average immigrant family, according to the US National Academy of Sciences (1997 study, so those #s are probably significantly higher). From 1990-2000, the population increased from 29 million to ~34 million. The number of immigrants–again, mostly low- and no-skilled–was MORE than 5 million, because there was a net out-migration of native US citizens to other states. Nonetheless, the Democratic leadership, including both of California’s senators, refuse to support mandatory e-verify (which would deal with about half the population increase). Big business republicans also tend to oppose measures that would reduce mass immigration.

  • avatar
    MarkD

    California has no effective opposition party, and it gets this sort of nonsense, hard and often. Good luck, I won’t be back.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      If they had no opposition they would have been able to raise taxes in the first place. This isn’t political in the partisan sense as much as the generic way that all politicians can generate money without raising taxes. And while new for red light cameras this system’s been in place for nearly 40 years; an unintended consequence of the 55 mph national limit. Before that it was limited to sleazy small towns like Empire, Colorado.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I have nothing but contempt for people who claim this is a low tax issue. Californians already pay the 2nd highest taxes in the country. The problem is spending, and the people responsible all share the same political ideology.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The problem isn’t low taxes per se – it’s low taxes in relation to high spending. The spending didn’t happen in a vacuum – the people told the legislature what they wanted the government to do, and that’s what the legislature set up. Given that, people can either pay higher taxes to pay for the spending, or they can tell the legislature to reduce government services, and taxes will naturally decrease.

      But under our current system, tax cuts happen independent of spending cuts, and spending increases happen independent of tax increases. This happens because the taxpayers want lower taxes and more services. The net result: when tax revenues go down, taxpayers refuse to pay more and legislators refuse to cut spending for fear of what will happen to them come the next election. Backdoor taxes like this one are the result.

      What’s needed is a conversation on spending and taxes…and quite honestly, you having “nothing but contempt” for anyone who disagrees with you politically, you are part of the reason why that’s not happening.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        “the people told the legislature what they wanted the government to do, and that’s what the legislature set up.”

        Actually, this is California we’re talking about: a whole bunch of that spending was done by the people directly, via referendum.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        The problem isn’t so much that taxpayers want more for less. The real problem is people who don’t pay taxes but receive benefits being allowed to vote. They naturally want more money so they vote for those who promise them more for less. This includes government employees too, they pay taxes but the cost/benefits works for them. Their raises aren’t all taken by increased taxes so they come out ahead.

        Simple solution, no voting if you recieve any benefit or salary from the government except for active duty military. Throw the current bums out and replace them with those pledged to reduce spending and if they don’t then throw them out. Also require a citizenship test for all voters, if you don’t know what you are voting for them you can’t vote.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        Two tier citizenship should be more repugnant to an American than anything else.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @aristurtle:
        “Actually, this is California we’re talking about: a whole bunch of that spending was done by the people directly, via referendum.”

        …true, but that speaks again to my point: this spending didn’t happen in a vacuum. People wanted it.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @MikeAR:
        “The problem isn’t so much that taxpayers want more for less. The real problem is people who don’t pay taxes but receive benefits being allowed to vote.”

        Let’s see…I’m looking through the Constitution and finding no provision for having to pay taxes to be able to vote…nothing there…

        And even if we don’t receive money from the government, we ALL receive benefits. It’s worth noting that us being able to chat using a personal computer and the Internet are two of those benefits. You see, the technology for personal computers was developed for the defense and space programs, and the Internet was a defense project…all taxpayer funded. Ditto for roads, schools, the armed forces, cops, firemen, and on and on.

        Put differently: what programs are YOU willing to give up to cut your tax bill down? I know what your answer will be…but I’ll wait.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Mike, read history, it wasn’t addressed in the Constitution except peripherally. But the states allowed at the time only white male property owners the vote. Who could vote was in the unenumerated powers left to the states. So you could read the Constitution, if you ever have and never see anything about voting until the later amendments; the 14th, whatever one gave women the right and the big mistake that gave 18 year olds the right. I like the way the Founding Fathers did things, they made a document for the ages and we have debased it since then.

        And adding this, I bet you really weren’t looking through the Constitution, were you? If you had been you wouldn’t have made that post. Next time actually read and learn something about the document and the time.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        We’ve got lifeguards who retire at 50 with six figure pensions. They aren’t even the ones who actually rescue people. San Francisco has guys who dress up like firemen and drive ornamental fire boats for the tourists to photograph who…retire at 52 with six figure pensions. LA spends 5 billion a year on services for illegal aliens. I’ve been here for the last 4 years and nobody defends California spending in person. Even government union employees complain when they find out about other massive wastes the government spends money on, shameless as they seem while doing it. I’ve got a better question. What does California spends money on that I should care about?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        FreedMike,

        The passage you are looking for is right next to the part about how people are entitled to have the government take from others and give to them. Hmm… That doesn’t seem like equal treatment under the laws. How can some people have the right to other people’s money while the other people don’t have the right to their own money? There’s something unequal about that concept.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      The fundamental problem is that once a government program or service is enacted it is virtually impossible to remove it and it fundamentally becomes captured by the industries that work with it and come to rely upon it.

      It’s a fundamental problem in all republics, we are no different. The option that people have is to open their eyes, carefully evaluate the situation and make changes to eliminate waste and fraud, or, simply let the whole stinking pile continnue to grow until it collapses upon itself.

      I believe that America is firmly on the road to the latter at this point in time…

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Washington State this year had HB1217, a bill allowing cities to drop any speed limit to 20mph with no study, public comment, safety review, warning, or explanation going through the legislature. The House Representatives used all of their many tricks to move it along at lightening speed in the dead of night without it appearing on any radar.

    It took pulling in nearly 100 groups with a stake in professional street management with nearly one thousand e-mails to get it killed in the Senate Transportation Committee. It was like stopping a speeding steam locomotive once cities got a whiff of what they perceived as money slipping through their fingers.

    Cities wanted to hang a temporary 20mph speed limit sign over an existing speed limit sign in the dead of night that had been 35, 40, or 45mph for decades, harvest the speed citations, then move to a different stretch of road. Far too many legislators had no problem with cities raising revenue doing this.

  • avatar
    EyeMWing

    The solution here is to GET THE HELL ON THE GAS every time you see a not-a-cop with a radar gun. If we can just get 16% of motorists into that mindset, we’re golden.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      How can you tell if it’s a cop or not? The normal reaction to seeing a guy with a radar gun on the side of the road is to hit the brakes. Seems like this program would lower the speed limits by 15% every 7 to 10 years.

      • 0 avatar
        EyeMWing

        White or yellow pickup truck out in the open where they can get good look = not a cop.
        Anything else, particularly hidden behind an obstacle = cop.

        If you’re close enough to see a radar gun, you’re close enough to assess who’s holding it.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    California thats the place that put actors in charge What did you expect huh

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