Red-light cameras extorting records amount of cash from Millbrae drivers

Gotta hand it to Millbrae. They found just the right corner on which to stick a red light camera. The vast majority of motorists are getting beaned for legal right turns after a stop.

In one month alone, red light cameras in Millbrae generated over 1,500 citations in it’s nine year history. Three intersections in Millbrae have red light cameras and all of them are on Millbrae Avenue.  One camera captures drivers exiting southbound Highway 101 and is the most prolific, giving out 595 citations in the month of June.  Most of the citations were given to drivers who made a rolling right turn. “She just stopped and then she took a right, like you would normally do, yeah a simple right turn,” Alex Quant’s said.  Mike Miranda showed ABC7 News an expensive ticket he got for over $400.

If you click through to the story, you can watch the video. The unfairness of the ticket is obvious from Miranda’s face.  (Despite the unfairness of his ticket, The Ticket Assassin predicts Miranda will remain in the 98% of people who do not contest).

Here’s one part of the story that stood out to me:

The majority of citations were issued for right turns, instead of running red lights.

Screenshot 2015-07-29 16.30.26

Red light cameras were sold to us as a check on drivers who blow through red lights. “Red light runners”, always with  descriptions of drivers flooring it on a yellow light to traverse straight through an intersection, often with descriptions of terrible T-bone accidents.  But that’s not what the “vast majority” of these tickets are actually for. The vast majority of right light camera tickets are for right turns after coming to a stop at the corner. I don’t think anybody would agree that is the same thing. I don’t think any rational, sane motorist would agree it’s as bad (or worse) as blowing straight through an intersection.

Congratulations, Millbrae! You got these cameras installed on a pretense of safety and are now soaking your citizens for technically-illegal but safe rolling-stops at the corner. Time to pop that champagne.

The story quoted our friend and “honorary” Ticket Assassin Jim Lissner at HighwayRobbery.Net:

According to statistics analyzed by HighwayRobber.Net, Millbrae had a record number of citations totaling 1,555 in June, which is more than any month since the cameras were installed in the city nine years ago. HighwayRobbery.Net is a blog that tracks red light cameras all over California and said about 90 percent of the citations are for turns mostly rolling rights, which are violations that cause the least number of collisions, but make the most amount of money in fines. “I personally think it’s legalized theft,” one man said.

At least one State Senator is fighting back against these Orwellian Cash Machines: California State Senator Jerry Hill.

Sen. Jerry Hill’s bill to reduce fines for rolling rights failed and said cities should not use the cameras to make money. “They look at every opportunity to increase revenue in situations where they’re not dangerous,” he said. The question is how much has the city made from the cameras and are there fewer collisions because of them.

That’s pretty easy. This intersection alone got 1,500 citations in June. The tickets issued are $400 a pop. That’s some fairly simple math.

If you live in Jerry Hill’s district, I recommend supporting his campaign. Visit California State Senator Jerry Hill’s campaign site.

Justice: defenestrated! Ruling May Make ID Defense Harder

This is some fucked-up shit:

Under California law, red light camera tickets may only be issued if the driver is clearly visible in the photograph. Positive identification is required because the driver, who may not be the registered owner, will have a point assessed against his license. MRCA decided it did not want to pay Redflex for verifying photographs of drivers and instead called the $175 citations “administrative penalties.” This arrangement allowed the agency to avoid splitting fine revenue with the state government. Motorist Danny Everett argued that was illegal.

Translation: the identity defense may be going away.

How this effects California motorists:  As it stands now, if you get your picture taken by one of those Orwellian cash machines, the state mails you the ticket. However, they only mail you the ticket if the photo of the driver is of decent quality – enough to be able to ID the driver. With this ruling, the court may feel empowered to chuck that standard right out the window.  Justice: defenestrated!

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.