Let’s Discuss: Should Red Light Cameras Be Used to Ticket Rolling Right Turn Violations?

red light, red light camera, right turn on red, rolling stop
WeHo’s Public Safety Commission had a debate at its last meeting over a proposal by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to start ticketing drivers in West Hollywood who make a right turn at a red light without stopping.

Running a red light, whether by racing directly through an intersection or turning right on red without stopping first, is an indisputable violation of the law. But there are questions as to how effective penalties for illegal right turns on red are when it comes to stopping accidents. And many people are upset about the fine associated with those tickets.

The fine actually is $100 for violating the law. But over the years the state legislature has tacked on a host of additional fines designed not to punish one for breaking the law but to help pay for everything from courthouse construction ($50), emergency medical services ($20) and court operations expenses ($40). The end result is a fine of $490.

West Hollywood agreed in 1999 to install a system in which cameras could capture images of vehicles running through red lights. The cameras were installed initially at six intersections and then at 24 approaches to eight intersections on major streets and boulevards such as Santa Monica, Beverly, Robertson and Fountain. The city reports that the program has been successful in reducing accidents and violations in concert with other steps such as installing “count down” pedestrian indicators at traffic light signals and high visibility “zebra” style crosswalks. That system has been used by law enforcement officers to identify cars that drive straight through an intersection while the light was red.

But they didn’t pursue those who turned right on red without stopping because it was assumed those drivers were moving at slower speeds and posing less of a hazard, and that camera system couldn’t easily catch such drivers. The city began installing a new system last year with cameras that can take videos. That system has alerted officers to a number of dangerous situations involving right turns on red. During a 30-day period ending on April 11, deputies saw 250 incidents in which motorists in West Hollywood made right turns on red without stopping, about 100 of which involved vehicles driving at or over 15 miles an hour.

Because of that, the Sheriff’s Department proposes ticketing drivers in West Hollywood who make right turns on red if their vehicle exceeds 15 miles an hour or 10 miles an hour if the department finds other safety concerns.

Jay Beeber, executive director at Safer Streets LA, is a vocal opponent of red light cameras and especially of using them to target drivers making right turns on red. Beeber argues that “most red light running is unintentional and caused by yellow light times that are too short or other engineering deficiencies.”

“Lengthening the yellow signal to the proper time will reduce violations and collisions as much as 50% or more,” he says on the SafeStreetsLA.org website. Referencing Los Angeles, Beeber says “If the city improved the signal timing and fixed any other engineering deficiencies, accidents and violations would drop and there would be no need for photo enforcement. They are spending your money and giving out millions of tickets for no reason.”

Beeber also argues that “Contrary to LAPD claims, any improvement in accident statistics is a result of state-mandated longer yellow times being implemented when the cameras were installed or a decrease in traffic volume.”

Beeber says that ticketing those who make a “rolling right turn” is especially ineffective and is used to generate revenue. “Most Red Light Camera Programs are subsidized by giving out tens of thousands of citations for rolling right turns which rarely cause accidents,” he writes. “At some intersection approaches rolling-right-turn tickets make up as much as 97% of the citations ….The average number of rolling-right-turn collisions each year was 45 out of an average of approximately 56,000 collisions annually in the City of L.A., which represents just 0.079% of all accidents. … The chance that a rolling-right-turn will result in a collision is 0.00029%. This means that a driver would have to make over 345,345 rolling-right turns before they might be involved in an accident. Drivers who make slow, cautious rolling-right turns will likely never cause an accident.”

Should the City of West Hollywood endorse the Sheriff’s Department’s proposal to use its red-light cameras to issue tickets for “rolling-right turns”?

  1. The liability for red light violations is considered a civil offense as opposed to criminal citation, issued to the vehicle owner just like a parking ticket. The issue of vehicle owner liability has been addressed in the Courts, with a ruling in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 2007, which agreed with a lower court when it found that the presumption of liability of the owners of vehicles issued citations does NOT violate due process rights. Agomo v. Fenty, 916 181 (District of Columbia Court of Appeals 1st of February 2007). The ruling was supported by a 2009 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in which it was held that issuing citations to vehicle owners (or lessees) is constitutional, also stating that ”it also encourages drivers to be cautious in lending their vehicles to others.” Idris v. City of Chicago, Illinois, 08-1363 (7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 5 January 2009) The Privacy Issue was also addressed in the same ruling by the Court stating that “no one has a fundamental right to run a red light or avoid being seen by a camera on a public street.” This includes reckless drivers from beverly hills endangering West Hollywood by their inept and inconsiderate transit! In the past as a part of my reckless youth (hey republicans often cite “youthful indiscretion” to justify everything from their hate crimes to drug use) numerous previous employers were forced to assume the liability for my driving, if this fact makes anyone feel better.
    I would also like to include that there is a great potential for abuse here and we should keep watch that our Civil Liberties are not being violated by this technology in the name of safety and security. The red-light enforcement cameras as well as security cameras are installed and maintained by private firms that are making a great deal of money by use of the Public Sector. We are talking about paramilitary security companies like Black Water and TigerSwan whose actions have been well documented in regards to tracking and targeting Social, Political and Environmental activists as they see as “jihadists” in their own words! I’m sure that many of the posters opposed to the red-light cameras could easily be convinced to accept them if they were given the impression that only the rights of non-whites and Muslims would be violated.
    YES there is a problem with rolling right turn violations and overt running of red-lights but, red light cameras are NOT the only and by no means the most effective countermeasure against red-light running. Also building a wall to keep out obnoxious people from beverly hills is also ineffective and cost prohibitive, I would like to drastically increase their taxes instead and spend it on many things more socially redeeming. In the short term, there are things we should consider that may help the problem. In a study done by the University of New Mexico City of Albuquerque Red Light Camera Study Final Report found that there are many more effective options as opposed to red-light cameras. Simple things can help like increasing the visibility distance and conspicuity of the traffic light so it is more likely to attract the driver’s attention in time for them to stop, re-timing lights via a computerized system so drivers will encounter fewer red ones at peak hours, adjusting the duration of the yellow light between the green and the red to fit the circumstances and, adding a “clearance” phase to the intersection’s traffic signals where all directions have a red light. My contribution in helping to solve the problem is simple, the Courts should threaten to impose a mandatory and exclusive use of PUBLIC TRANSIT for no less than a year upon any and all inconsiderate beverly hills drivers endangering public safety, this would fix their wagon good!

  2. Red light cameras issue most citations to safe drivers who endangered absolutely no one. They are for-profit rackets that no one should support. WeHo voters need to demand they be be taken down – and vote out every elected officials that supports them if necessary to get the racket stopped.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  3. LA County stopped honoring these tickets years ago, so NO. People must STOP at a stop sign. People must STOP at a red light. If you are going to proceed without stopping, then you should get a ticket. As a pedestrian, I was in danger by distracted drivers (cellphones) or people – in a hurry (saving a split second) – blowing past stop signs. I would have punched the driver it was the civil thing to do.

  4. No victim no crime. This is just another non-tax tax. Basically, your elected officials couldn’t write a balanced budget and need more of your money. As long as we only take it from a few “law breakers” people don’t make that big of a fuss. But this is robbery. These machines are ran by for profit companies that have no investment in upholding the law. They only serve the needs of those cashing the checks. Tear down your red light cameras Ms Mayor!

  5. These lights are an equivalent to small town speed traps. They are unconstitutional and Orwellian and should all be removed. Frankly, most Wehoans I have talked to regarding them are incredulous they still exist, let alone are increasing in number. Cops should be in cars monitoring the worst intersections. Oh, and those ticket fees are a poverty tax and indefensibly high. I drive like an old school teacher and still worry I have to blast through those camera intersections to not get a ticket. I think they increase danger.

  6. As has been accurately explained by the officer monitoring the Photo Light program in Culver City, YELLOW means CAUTION……… PREPARE TO STOP…..DO NOT SPEED UP!

    Jay Walking tickets could easily improve pedestrian and vehicle safety. For instance, the scrum at TJ’s/ SM Blvd./West? where pedestrians are invariably oblivious to west bound vehicles turning right especially in heavy traffic, complicated by the pedX on SM. Peds have no consciousness to pause on sidewalk allowing traffic to unsnarl…..”.Sorry folks, I’m too important, am obligated to be glued to my phone and have little concern for my own safety.”
    Please ticket this type of menace.

  7. What happened to those prominent posted signs that warned about red light cameras? I thought they were required and there appears to be no signage at any of the newly upgraded intersections. If it were really about safety and prevention, there’d be plenty of warning to affect behavior. If there are no warning signs, then it is clearly meant to entrap unsuspecting drivers.

    As for real pedestrian and bicyclist safety at intersections or trouble spots, I’m all for it. Here’s a better idea: just record all traffic activity at problem locations with posted warning signs. If an ordinary citizen wishes to make a complaint, make it so they can summon a Deputy (an onside button perhaps) and access and preserve the recording that captures the allegedly unsafe behavior. This way there would be a citizens complaint about behavior that can then be filed, sent and adjudicated by the courts with due process. None of this automated ticket with no due process and no complainant. That is just trickery

  8. Victor – I one million percent agree with you that bicyclists that ride on the sidewalks especially when there is a bike lane should be ticketed. I understand that it is can be unsafe to ride in the street when there is no bike lane but bicyclists need to respect and YIELD to pedestrians just like the law says when riding on the sideWALK. and not to expect the pedestrian to jump out of the way for them. I also think the bicyclists should be ticketed when they run every single stop sign and most red lights if there are no cars coming. It is the law and no different than a car running through a stop sign. And I am sure that when bicyclists blow through a stop sign they still blame the the driver of the car for not stopping for the bicyclist. A lot of bicyclists doesn’t think they need to obey the laws.

  9. I know this article is about stopping for a right turn on a red light but I think 100% of traffic lights should have cameras that ticket people that run red lights. BUT….. they all must have a large countdown above the light displaying how long until the light will change to yellow, It needs to be large enough to be seen from at least a half a block away. So when you are a half a block away doing 40MPH, you see that you only have 2 seconds before the light is going to change to yellow, you know to slow down. You don’t have to chose between either slamming on your brakes with the fear being rear ended or running the light. I know that lights have the countdown for pedestrians but they don’t always change to a countdown if the button is not pushed and they will stay on don’t walk the entire light cycle or some have a countdown but then change to a red hand for a period of time before the light turns yellow. So while the current walk countdown is sometimes a good estimate until the light changes it is not always perfect . So if all lights had a large countdown above the lights there would be no excuse, except that you are not paying attention or just don’t want to stop, and then you deserve to get a ticket. I think that would make all intersections much safer.

  10. I’m for “yellow light” cameras for cars that violate the laws at crosswalks. Red light cameras are just plain wrong. As for pedestrians and bicyclists, let’s start ticketing bicyclists who use the sidewalk in an unsafe manner. I am tired of practically being smacked by these jerks who want to ride a bike but can’t use the bike lane. And, we should have an ordinance equivalent to “jay walking” that allows the Sheriffs to ticket distracted pedestrians who cause near accidents because the don’t pay attention while walking in the crosswalks (too early or too late). Didn’t your Mother ever tell you to: “STOP SQUAWKING BEFORE YOU CROSS THE STREET!”

  11. What is shameful, unconstitutional & illegal is hitting or killing a pedestrian or bicyclist in a crosswalk because you are on your cell phone,blasting your music & rolling through a right turn on a red light! We pedestrians & bicyclists are all alone out there often with no witnesses. I’D LOVE TO SEE CAMERAS CATCHING ALL THESE DRIVERS ON CELL PHONES AND NOT STOPPING BEFORE TURNING ON A RED LIGHT!! I’ll bet most of you who are against this never walk or bicycle! Don’t worry the city wastes plenty of money on actions that residents don’t get to vote on. At least THIS MONEY WOULD GO INTO SAVING LIVES! WAKE UP RESIDENTS!

  12. Shameful. Improve public safety through positive action not the cash register please.
    Thanking Weho in advance .

  13. A camera trap, a new form of speed trap which was made illegal for the same reason. All about revenue. Too many cities cannot resist the money. They are an abuse of our legitimate traffic laws. They should be illegal.

  14. Once again, a step too far. If a deputy sees a driver who breaks the law and the deputy thinks that such infraction warrants a ticket, so be it. But using cameras at intersections to issue expensive tickets for making right turns without stopping first is just another money grab. If the Sheriff Department is really worried about these scofflaws endangering public safety, I can direct them to any number of streets with speeding motorists, stop signs that are ignored, “no turn” signs ignored, etc. The cameras don’t improve public safety any more than merely lengthened yellow lights and are a complete waste of money.

  15. Cameras at intersections have been proven a waste of expense, the legal problems have already stopped LA from using them as well. A crime must be observed by Police not cameras. STOP WASTING OUR MONEY this way.

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