No one likes a traffic ticket, but drivers especially see red when it comes to citations issued on the basis of red-light cameras.
Maybe it’s the feeling that Big Brother is keeping tabs on drivers using technology instead of old-fashioned police patrols. The jaw-dropping amount of the tickets—nearly $500—surely doesn’t help matters. (Why so much? In addition to the base fine, the tickets are rife with added-on fees.)
Although the City of Los Angeles stopped using red light cameras in 2011, the cameras are still used in other area cities, including West Hollywood, Culver City and Beverly Hills.
Opponents of the cameras view the system as abusive and suggest that many ticketed drivers did not run a red light deliberately and merely made an error in judgment. Zenon Porche, the Sheriff’s Department deputy who oversees the system in West Hollywood, says that it is fair and that it has significantly reducing the number of fatal crashes in the city.
Some of WEHOville.com’s readers have reached out with questions about the program. Here is what we learned that you need to know about red light cameras in West Hollywood:
Where are the cameras?
In West Hollywood, there are red light cameras at eight intersections:
• Fountain Avenue at Crescent Heights Boulevard, at Fairfax Avenue and at La Brea Avenue
• La Cienega Boulevard at Sunset Boulevard and at Melrose Avenue
• Santa Monica Boulevard at Fairfax Avenue and at La Brea Avenue
• Beverly Boulevard at Robertson Boulevard
Why so many cameras in such a city of only 1.89 square miles?
According to Porche, accident rates determine how many cameras are needed and where they are placed. “West Hollywood is small, but it’s very congested,” he said.
What can I be ticketed for?
If you’re caught on a red light camera in West Hollywood, you can get a ticket only for going straight through a red light. Other cities cite drivers for making turns through red lights, but Porche said that, statistically speaking, tickets for turning violations aren’t justified in WeHo.
How many tickets are being issued, and who is being cited?
In 2013, the total number of citations countywide was 11,399, according to information provided by the Sheriff’s Department. Only 465 of those citations were issued to West Hollywood residents. Porche noted that West Hollywood residents are more likely to know where the cameras are and thus avoid being snapped running a red light.
Do I really have to acknowledge and pay this ticket?
Well, err, it’s hard to be definite, and it depends on what you mean by “have to.” But from a strictly legal standpoint, the answer is “yes.”
“You have an obligation to respond – end of story,” said Porche, who noted that an arrest warrant can be issued if you don’t respond. “We can come after you … Make no mistake about it, it’s a valid ticket, and people are legally obligated to respond.”
(Note: Responding can mean acknowledging and paying the ticket OR explaining and verifying that you are not the person who was driving the car when the violation occurred.)
From a purely practical standpoint, many reports (some going so far as to call payments “voluntary”) suggest that ducking tickets hasn’t resulted in much in the way of consequences. The LA Weekly, for example, reported that a Los Angeles City Council member conceded that there were no consequences to not paying before LA ended the red light ticket program. Ignoring a ticket can lead to a call from a collection agency, but that’s not likely to affect your credit score, your driver’s license or car insurance rate. However, it could come up if you end up in court on another matter.
For his part, Porche said he has talked to the courts about stepping up enforcement of red light tickets. Ignoring the ticket may be the equivalent of going through an intersection on a borderline yellow. Perhaps you’ll make it through unscathed, or perhaps you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise later.
Red Light Resources
• The Sheriff’s Department provides information, including videos with Deputy Zenon Porche, online.
• Jay Beeber, the libertarian activist who led the campaign to get Los Angeles to drop the red light camera program, makes his case against the lights on his website, Safer Streets L.A.
• Highway Robbery is another website that offers both arguments against the program and advice on what to do if you get ticketed.