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Red light camera program may take a detour

SAN DIEGO – The controversial red light camera program in San Diego may soon come to a stop or at least take a detour.

While on the campaign trail, newly elected mayor Bob Filner said he would do away with the program that last year earned San Diego roughly $200,000 in revenue, but cost offenders $490 dollars per ticket.

“The stick was not as good as the carrot. What we want from the policy is safety and we don’t want people running red lights but we also don’t want rear end collisions when they stop for the red light,” he said.

traffic camerasThere is no conclusive study on crashes, including fatalities at intersections with photo enforced cameras.  Some studies suggest rear-end collisions went up 140 percent.

Attorney Mitchell Mehdy is known as “Mr. Ticket” and he uses the red light camera at Harbor Drive and Grape Street near the San Diego International Airport.

“I don’t think there’s been any accidents, fatalities or very few before the cameras where there, but because that location has so much traffic they can generate a lot of revenue from the cameras,” Mehdy said.

In 2011, San Diego police officers issue about 20,000 tickets from red light cameras. The city gets roughly $150 of the revenue from the $490 ticket, with the vendor and the state taking the rest. The current contract is set to expire at the end of January.

“The aim should be to enhance safety and educate drivers and not to make money for a contractor or for the city or the state,” Filner said.

“I think it’s going to be modified and it’s going to be fair thing to do,” said Mehdy.  “The number one complaint is the high fines as well as where the locations are.”

Filner would not say Thursday if he would do away the program altogether, but did say it’s on the table for discussion.

“I would like to find a way to extend the current program for enough time to discuss these policy issues,” he said.

This is welcoming news for motorists.

“The $500 ticket is pretty steep,” said San Diego resident Toby Frank, who got a red light ticket the day he moved to San Diego, adding, “I could see a $50.00 fine, but $500.00 is a lot.”

4 comments

  • Aloysious Farquart

    The vast majority of motorists do not crash or run the light in the presence of red light cameras.

    So there could be absolutely no logic in the conclusion that rear-end crashes "associated" with RLCs are "attributable" to RLCs.

    This is the same logical error used to blame fog, etc., for crashes. If the fog caused the crash, why did it attack those motorists but leave the vast majority unmolested…?

    "Correlation does not imply causation". This isn't rocket science.

    "The first thing we must recognize is that crashes are not accidents."
    -Ricardo Martinez, M.D., NHTSA Administrator, 1997

  • Henry H

    If the city council continues the program, the cameras will end up focusing on rolling right turn violations. Why?

    Last month a respected government-funded study group (National Cooperative Highway Research Program ("NCHRP") of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences) published a study recommending longer minimum yellows. The minimums recommended in the study were 0.4 to 0.6 sec. greater than the present minimums. For example, the present minimum in a 35 zone is 3.6 secs. while the study recommends 4.1 seconds.
    Right now the average red light violator is about 0.4 sec. late, so the extra time will cut violations by at least half.
    The NCHRP study also recommended longer yellows for left turns. Instead of the current 3.0 yellow no matter what the posted speed, it recommended longer yellows on streets having higher posted speeds. In a 35 zone the min. yellow for a left turn would be 3.7.
    An article about the study is at http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/39/3941.asp and the full study is at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_… .
    I submit that city staff needs to report to the City Council about the effect the reduced quantity of violations will have on the financial viability of the camera system. Unless the plan, all along, has been to shift the focus on rolling right turn violations, the quantity of which is almost infinite and not much affected by the length of the yellow.

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  • Alex

    It is no surprise to me that the red light camera’s have not shown any reduction of accidents at these intersections. The locations of some of these cameras are questionable too. I personally got a ticket at that same intersection of Grape St. and North Harbor Dr. where traffic can get very heavy. While the left arrow light was green, there was little room for me to actually make the turn onto Grape St. and sat there waiting for the cars to move along. Once they did, I started to turn and still managed to get stuck in the intersection blocking traffic and saw the flash once I turned. I was shocked to see the $500 fine and hired Mitchell Mehdy for help. Saved a few hundred up front and avoided costly points on my license as well. Thanks Mitch!

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