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Los Angeles says it's stopping use of red-light cameras in issuing those horribly expensive traffic tickets. But L.A. drivers beware: Not everyone in the county agrees or plans to cease photo light citations. Cities like Beverly Hills won't stop using photographic evidence snapped at intersections. The city plans to keep and increase quantity of the hated devices.
Los Angeles says it's time for those infamous red-light cameras -- supposedly originally intended to increase safety -- to go. The installation, operation and all of the required expenditures related to enforcement of the traffic cameras proved expensive. In fact L.A. says it costs more to continue using red-light cameras for tickets than to take them out altogether. But, worse yet, the cameras that were touted to increase safety on the roads for L.A. drivers are alleged to cause more accidents, as panicked drivers rush to cross intersections and instead plow into one another -- all in efforts to bypass city citations that run roughly five hundred bucks apiece, and help up auto insurance rates.
But while Los Angeles insists it's now ripping out those dastardly cameras, other Southern California cities claim a strong commitment to the red light demons and their enforcement, despite the metropolitan city's decision to shut them down and rip out that red-light photo enforcement.
It's already ticked off tens of thousands of motorists to recently discover that, while Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 to rid L.A. city of its online program and city red-light cameras ditched, a little hidden fact was recently revealed to county drivers: As it turns out, drivers paying fines for camera-issued tickets in Los Angeles is not required--citations uneforceabled and payments "voluntary" for citations received in Los Angeles city itself and the 32 cities that use cameras within L.A. county.
That little tidbit didn't sit well with L.A. county drivers who had recently paid photo or red-light fines and already 'donated' to the county through fines they legally weren't required to pay.
It's probably going to tick off even more L.A. county motorists to discover another little fact: Those red-light cameras aren't leaving all of Los Angeles. Beverly Hills is one of those cities which has announced camera enforcement and related citations are not only set to stay, but enforcement will actually be increased.
Beverly Hills initially threw that red-light camera program into effect in 1996. Now the Southern California city wants to up those devices -- and related revenue. In Beverly Hills, red-light traffic cameras bring in gross revenues of nearly two million bucks per year. Or at least $1.8 million on average, with estimates of cameras and related tickets raking in more than $150,000 a month. Over one-third of gross revenues goes to the vendor. Of $150,000 in a monthly revenue, $53,000 is slated for the vendor. Beverly Hills claims red-light traffic violations have declined at intersections where the deterrent has been put in place for drivers.
Of course that isn't entirely believable. Beverly Hills might argue accidents have declined -- which has been proven not to be the case throughout many cities that have installed, then ripped out the cameras -- but a decline in violations would mean a decline in tickets being issued to L.A. county drivers. And that, in turn, would mean a decline in revenue. It's a bit technically impossible for the factor that's bringing in revenue (issued tickets) to decline, while supposedly your revenue (for issued tickets) is not declining.
Says Mark Rosen of the traffic bureau in Beverly Hills, California: "The whole idea behind the [red light camera] program is public safety, so you can't just look at revenues...We [Beverly Hills traffic bureau] feel that we are experiencing a reduction in accidents, a reduction in citations, and we are experiencing a positive revenue flow." Might that be a "feeling" or a fact? It's certainly an odd phrasing to describe something that should be clearly defined in statistics as a basis for a statement. How, exactly, does one "feel" there's a reduction in accidents and citations? There either is or isn't. Statistics aren't one of those touch-feely things in life. And there not so hard to list -- unless you don't really want to list or address them.
While Mr Rosen doesn't claim to be a mathematician, something in his statement doesn't add up: Those red-camera lights are notoriously expensive for cities to run: If in fact there's a reduction in citations, how is the city experiencing a positive revenue flow? That's certainly not the experience of the city of Los Angeles, or others, who have ripped out the red-light photo cameras because they were actually more expensive to keep than the monthly revenues that related citations were bringing in. Unless Beverly Hills maintains some unknown magical ability, it's a bit impossible to be cutting down red-light citations issued -- yet still be operating in the positive cash flow. It, literally, doesn't quite add up.
Rosen claims Beverly Hills has experienced a high success rate by going after red-light offenders through collections -- but would prefer to see courts notify the California DMV when defendants have a failure to appear in court for red-light camera citations.
"The program would certainly be improved with cooperation from the [California] court system," says Rosen. No doubt the city would like to see things forwarded to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) right off the bat, to place restrictions on drivers' licenses in order to force violators to pay. If the DMV was doing the work to enforce payment on citations, it would certainly make things more profitable for a city that doesn't have to pay to enforce its own violation it chooses to issue.
Red-light cameras and Santa Clarita are a more recent mix. The Santa Clarita camera program took flight just seven years ago, in 2004. It doesn't quite garner the monthly revenues of Beverly Hills, but the tally is nothing to snicker at. Santa Clarita makes net revenues of well over half a million dollars per year through camera enforcement -- with estimates of roughly $600,000 to $700,000 per year, on citations that average $480 dollars apiece.
The Southern California city has camera enforcement at seven intersections and claims a 64% decrease in broadside collisions. The city also claims a 71% decrease in red-light violations since the cameras were first installed. Apparently that photographic evidence isn't quite as profitable in Santa Clarita as in Beverly Hills: While Beverly Hills plans to increase its number of red-light cameras, Santa Clarita says it might "contemplate" future additions but, for now, plans to simply maintain what's already in existence. But revenue is apparently hefty enough that the city in L.A. county doesn't plan to rip them out.
Los Angeles isn't the only So Cal city to recently ditch the red-light photo cameras and related traffic enforcement programs. For now, red-light camera enforcement in Long Beach is on a hiatus as of December 2010 -- the program for citations under city review while officials discuss whether it's really worthwhile to continue issuing the most-hated traffic citations. The city of El Monte threw out its photo cameras in 2008 after comparing traffic collisions stats for intersections and determining there was "no statistical difference" in the number of collisions -- a.k.a., no change in improved safety with the expensive red-light program in place. But, then, El Monte was only garnering about $2,000 per month.