Governor calls California Traffic Court a “hellhole of desperation” for the poor

Governor Jerry Brown has some harsh words for California traffic court:

The harsh lessons of the confrontation between the citizens and police of Ferguson, Missouri, last year are registering nationwide — notably in California where Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing amnesty for poor people buried under the escalating costs of unpaid traffic fines. “It’s a hellhole of desperation,” Mr. Brown said, underlining charges that the state has been exploiting low-income and minority residents caught in a spiraling accumulation of court costs that they can’t pay…. the Justice Department criticized officials for a court system found to rate revenue generation for the municipal budget more highly than concern for civil rights.

Governor Brown proposes to start an 18-month amnesty program in October so that drivers with lesser infractions would pay half of what they owe while administrative fees for lingering offenses would be cut from $300 to $50. Officials note violators’ problems become compounded with unpaid fines and penalties that lead to suspended licenses and registrations in a state where a car is virtual necessity for employment.

Thanks, Governor Moonbeam. It’s lonely being the only one banging that drum.

The Smoking Gun: Automated Enforcement causes more accidents

I always suspected that red light cameras did nothing to increase traffic safety. Even the most optimistic stats showed single digit deceases in accidents often coupled by double digit increases in rear-end collisions. Why? Just because you decide to stop on yellow does not mean the Hummer behind you will. As a result, rear-end collisions have increased at intersections where redlight cameras are installed.

Now there is evidence that ALL TYPES OF ACCIDENTS may increase when cameras are installed. In Stockton, California, accidents have increased by 8% at the majority of intersections with red light cameras. Over 15,000 citizens were cited at $338 each. This means that the city collected over $5,000,000 in fines to make its streets more dangerous. The city’s response to the obvious failure of their camera program : they are installing two more cameras. I hope the local trauma centers are well-funded and can handle the increased business.

If Stockton and other cities want to increase traffic safety they should focus on traffic safety, not windfall profits. Traffic engineering is not sexy or profitable, but traffic engineers can design safer intersections with proper funding, support and awareness by local governments. We should turn to our traffic engineers to improve the safety of intersections, not spooky defense contractors using the courts to violate our privacy and erode what few civil liberties remain.