California bill would overhaul ticket cam rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, March 23, 2012

 A California state lawmaker introduced a bill that is intended to curb the worst abuses of red-light cameras throughout the state.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, the bill would reduce the base fine on “rolling right turn” tickets from $100 to $35. Another provision would add one second to the state-established minimum time for yellow lights outfitted with ticket cameras.

Cook said the time requirement would address concerns about communities that shorten yellow times to boost coffers.

He cited Union City’s yellow light intervals. The community, which is located between Oakland and San Jose, was forced to refund more than $1 million to ticketed motorists because their light intervals were 1.3 seconds below the state-established minimum requirement.

Cook said the changes he is calling for will benefit safety on the state’s roadways. He cited a Texas Department of Transportation study that showed increasing yellow light intervals by one second reduced wrecks at intersections by 40 percent.

“My bill provides significant financial relief to California motorists who make minor traffic violations while also reducing accidents at camera-equipped intersections,” Cook said in a statement. “If red-light cameras are truly about improving public safety, then I can’t understand why anyone would oppose my bill. The numbers don’t lie.”

A separate provision addresses a rule change to give California communities leeway in setting speed limits and, as a result, reducing yellow light intervals.

Since Jan. 1, 2012, cities throughout the state have the option to round speed limits down after a traffic study, regardless of 85th percentile travel speeds.

Critics of the rule to authorize lower speeds say it provides communities an opportunity to set up speed traps. They point out that yellow times on roads posted at 30 mph are 0.4 seconds less than at 35 mph.

Cook’s bill would require yellow times at affected intersections to be rounded up to the nearest 5-mph increment.

The bill – AB2128 – is awaiting consideration in the Assembly Transportation Committee. It is scheduled to get a hearing on April 9.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California, click here.

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