In California, drivers can now be pulled over for using their GPS while driving. Extending the state’s current ban on texting while driving, an appellate court in California v. Spriggs argued that the ”distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails.”
So-called “distracted driving” laws have a mixed history of efficacy. In 2010, a study in the American Journal of Public Health found that “Any reduction in accidents following texting bans is short-lived, however, with accidents returning to near former levels within a few months.”
The most recent study, however, found that such laws are “moderately successful,” but only if they are strictly enforced. The study, to be published in next month’s American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, only looked at scenarios where the blame could be squarely placed on (digitally) distracted driving: single-vehicle, single-occupancy crashes. In some states, for instance, police cannot pull a driver over for texting while driving, but only add on a citation to another violation. In states with “strong” bans, driving fatalities were reduced 8 percent.
In Spriggs, the judge left it open as to whether the law should also apply to checking things like email, or whether drivers could safely use a hands-free version of GPS. Either way, the National Safety Council warns, “there is no research or evidence that indicates voice-activated technologies eliminate or even reduce the distraction to the drivers’ mind.”
Looks like we won’t be safe on the road until we all get robotic cars. Appropriately enough, thanks to Google’s powerful lobbying, they’re now legal in California.
Sign the Petition to Protect Your Right to a Trial for Traffic Tickets Right HERE.
Stop AB666 – The Devil’s Bill
What does AB666 Do?
AB666 (Wieckowski) rewrites the statutory scheme regarding the prosecution of red light camera tickets. Essentially, it would require that these tickets be prosecuted through an administrative hearing (although a point would still accrue to the driver’s license) conducted by the jurisdiction running the camera program rather than through an independent traffic court. This will eliminate many of the protections afforded to the accused which they would normally be entitled to in Superior Court.
But that’s not all, AB666 makes the vehicle owner responsible for violations committed by someone else unless you can prove who was driving the vehicle. Think about that. It’s like making you responsible if someone driving your car gets a speeding ticket, or runs a stop sign, or makes an illegal U-turn (which could happen once they get this into law). You will no longer have the defense that you weren’t the driver. And there’s no requirement that the pictures they capture have to be clear enough to help you identify who was driving even if you want to identify them. They can send you a citation with a blurry picture and then you are responsible for finding out who was driving. If you can’t, YOU have to pay the fine. And if you don’t, they will put a hold on your registration until you pay up. Not bad enough? The hold on your registration gets applied as soon as they mail you the ticket, not after you are found guilty.
It get’s worse. The tickets are considered Prima Facie evidence against you. What does that mean? It means that what you are accused of is considered true, “on its face”, and you have to prove that it is not true. No other evidence has to be submitted against you. No proof that they complied with the law in setting up the camera program, no proof that the system was working properly, no proof that the yellow light was at the minimum requirement. No other proof at all. You are responsible for proving otherwise. But in the administrative hearings you will have no right to face your accuser and no right to discovery of any evidence, even evidence that would exonerate you.
And they only have to decide if you are guilty based on a “preponderance of the evidence”, meaning it’s more likely than not. Currently in traffic court, the state has to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which is a much higher standard and provides you greater protection.
So who will be hearing your case? Someone the city hires. They don’t have to be a judge or have any real knowledge of the law. In fact, they can even be a former cop, former politician, even a former employee of the red light camera company. They only have to take 20 hours of training given by the city. Training in how best to find you guilty. Will they be “independent’? How can they be? How long do you think they will keep their job if they find even a small fraction of people not guilty?
If you lose your administrative hearing (which you most certainly will) you can still go to court to have your case heard by a real judge. Think that protects you? Think again. First, you will have to pay an additional fee to go to court. Then once you are there, the only thing the judge is allowed to decide is if the city conducted your administrative hearing “fairly”, meaning did they follow their own rules. The ones they made up. You will still not have even the small protections you currently have in traffic court. And the standard of proof will still be “preponderance of the evidence”, not “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
And on top of all that, AB666 expands the use of photo enforcement to other traffic violations such as turning violations. This means more photo enforcement tickets for more offenses. And you can bet that when the money starts rolling in they will want to include more types of traffic offenses by putting in speed cameras, school bus cameras and stop sign cameras.
This is why AB666 is truly “The Devil’s Bill”.
So how can Bob Wieckowski, who’s taken large campaign contributions from the red light camera companies justify sponsoring this horrendous anti-citizen bill? He says it’s because the courts are being overburdened by red light camera tickets. He thinks that it’s just too difficult to take your money so he wants to change the rules to make sure you have no possibility of escaping from this scam. Think it’s not about money? When we explained to his legislative aid that the best way to stop burdening the courts is to extend the yellow lights to ensure less inadvertent red light violations, she responded they couldn’t do that because “it would cut down on the revenue collected by the State”. That’s an exact quote.
The other thing that Wieckowski is claiming is that the bill is a benefit to motorists because it cuts the fine in half. But that’s totally misleading because only the base fine is cut, not all the added on penalties and fees, which is where the real money is generated. For example, the current red light base fine is $100. But with all the added fees, the total fine is really almost $500. If the base fine is cut in half to $50, then the total fine will still be about $300. Are you willing to give up all you rights so they can rip you off for only $300 rather than $500? But here’s the kicker – remember when the staff member told me they couldn’t reduce revenue? She really meant it. She said the bill would be “revenue neutral”. The only way that can happen if you reduce the fine is if you know that more people will be forced to pay up or more tickets will be given out. You can bet they are anticipating that both will happen once AB666 is implemented. So the bill won’t really be revenue neutral, it will be a revenue windfall for the cities that use the cameras and the State that takes its cut of the scam. And that windfall will come out of your pocket. Think about how many people are currently getting caught up in this scam. That number will skyrocket as cities rush to put in these systems, both for red light violations and the expanded photo enforcement violations permitted under AB666.
You can bet the Camera Companies such as Redflex and ATS are salivating at this possibility. Why else would they have helped to write this bill and hired a consulting firm to help get it passed. Why else are they spending tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists in Sacramento to ensure your rights are taken away.
And when they tell you this is all about safety, remember this – 95% or more of the violations given out by red light cameras are for violations that almost never cause accidents. They’re slow rolling right turns and unintentional fraction of a second into red violations that can’t result in collisions if there’s a proper all-red phase and which can be virtually eliminated by a small adjustment in the yellow light time. But they refuse to make these changes because “it would cut down on the revenue”. You see, they really want you to run red lights, because then they can penalize you and take your money.
If we don’t stop this now, we will all be paying the price for years to come. If the people had stood up and said NO when they approved red light cameras, if the people had stood up and said NO when they started ticketing mostly for rolling right turns, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
Take action today. Go to the home page and sign the petition. Then call Bob Wieckowski’s office and tell him to “Stop Selling the People Out to Red Light Camera Companies”. And if you can, please make a small donation to help the cause. Even a dollar or two will help. We’re not funded with millions of dollars stolen from citizens like the Red Light Camera companies are. If you can’t donate, we understand, but please sign the petition and make that phone call. Your friends, family and neighbors are counting on you. And please tell everyone you know about this. Share it on Facebook and send an email to whoever you can. Together we can beat this assault on the people.
9:31 a.m. PST, February 22, 2013
Embattled red-light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. fired its executive vice president Wednesday and accused him of misconduct involving the company’s scandal-plagued Chicago contract.
Reeling from the crippling loss of that contract and the expanding corruption investigation, Arizona-based Redflex filed a lawsuit against the former top executive that lays much of the blame for the company’s troubles on his “dishonest and unethical conduct” over a number of years.
The lawsuit marks a turnabout for Redflex officials, who dismissed similar allegations about Aaron Rosenberg after they were brought up more than two years ago in an internal letter to the board of directors for the company’s Australian parent company.
Now they are acknowledging what the lawsuit calls a “protracted and covert scheme” to misappropriate company funds over a period of years.
Company officials have said an “exhaustive, deep dive” internal investigation in 2010 found no merit to the whistle-blower allegations that the executive lavished company-paid trips on the Chicago official who oversaw the Redflex contract as part of a broader attempt to improperly court favor.
But the company failed to tell City Hall about the accusations until last year, when the Chicago Tribune obtained the letter and began its own investigation. Even then, the company stood by the results of its internal probe and said the executive vice president had made a one-time mistake for which he was disciplined.
Those early revelations prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ban Redflex from competing for a new speed camera program and refer the matter to city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.
Amid growing questions about the company’s conduct, the Emanuel administration recently announced it would not renew Redflex’s red-light contract, which accounts for about 13 percent of the company’s worldwide revenue and will expire this summer. The company’s stock price in Australia has plummeted since the first stories, and its leaders have promised to regain the trust of its largest North American client.
“This company has pledged to take corrective action regarding unethical employee conduct in Chicago,” Robert DeVincenzi, CEO of parent company Redflex Holdings Ltd., said in a written statement to the Tribune late Wednesday explaining the firing.
“Today we terminated the employment of the executive vice president of business development because our internal investigation revealed that he was violating company policies,” he said. “Our inquiry is continuing and other corrective actions will be announced in the near future.”
A Deputy District Attorney Allison Worden accused in an alleged ticket fixing scandal was found guilty on three counts in court Wednesday.
Last May the Attorney General Office filed misdemeanor charges against Deputy DA Allison Worden, who also goes by “Debow,” and San Diego Police Sgt. Kevin Friedman for their alleged involvement in a traffic ticket fixing scandal.
According to a criminal complaint, on May 28, 2011, Worden and Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund were cited by an SDPD officer for failing to wear seat belts. Maund told investigators that Worden tried to dissuade the officer from giving them tickets by saying they were Deputy District Attorneys.
When that failed to work for the DAs, Maund claimed Worden called her friends, Sgt. Friedman, at the San Diego Police Traffic Division. Maund said Worden told Friedman that the officer had acted inappropriately by getting in her “personal space” during their encounter.
Worden then allegedly asked Friedman if there was anything he could do about the traffic violations.
According to investigators, Friedman found the tickets in the division’s citation bin and got rid of them. Maund claimed she told Worden not to do anything about her ticket, but the request was allegedly ignored, and the tickets were dismissed. Maund, who maintained that she wanted to pay the fine for her ticket, then told a supervisor at the DA’s office about the alleged ticket fixing incident.
Worden was placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation and subsequent trial.
Sgt. Friedman was placed on administrative desk duty. In March 2012, he retired from the SDPD after more than 26 years of service.
Following the ticket scandal, both DAs and Friedman faced three charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and alteration or destruction of a traffic citation.
On Feb. 13, Worden was found guilty on all three counts. According to the DA’s Office, Worden’s current employment status is now being sorted out. It remains to be seen whether the DA will lose her job as a result of this guilty verdict.
Steve Walker with the San Diego County DA said the matter will be looked into. “The District Attorney’s Office respects the jury’s verdict and will take the appropriate action,” said Walker.
This isn’t the first traffic ticket fixing scandal to come out of the San Diego Police Department.
The chief and assistant chief were reprimanded 26 years ago for being part of a widespread practice of fixing hundreds of tickets for colleagues, friends, relatives, influential civic figures and members of the news media.
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San Diego, CA (I-Newswire) February 14, 2013 – Getting the infamous red light camera ticket and other driving violations in California is a time-consuming and expensive violation to deal with. It is considered a waste of money and a time-consuming issue, as it can mean paying the maximum fine and charges, while soiling the record of the violator. Contesting the violation is not hassle-free either, as it often requires the expertise of a lawyer, appearance in court and complying with other requirements.
Ticket Snipers is a team of traffic violation experts who can help people fight any moving violation, avoid aggressive fines, maintain low premiums and keep their driving record clean. Since its inception in 2010, the fully-licensed, bonded and Better Business Bureau- accredited company has been making the process of fighting the California traffic ticket as easy and as painless as possible. The ultimate goal is to empower drivers in California with the abilities to successfully defend traffic violations as well as avoiding future violations.
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TicketSnipers.com knows how to work the system, with focus on being smart about money and concerned about increased insurance rates. Notably, TicketSnipers.com knows red light camera ticket dismissal and how it works. Using state-of-the-art service, the company keeps a track record of success with more than 85% of the cases completely dismissed. For the few cases that don’t get dismissed, the team offers an industry-exclusive iron-clad 100% money back guarantee.
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San Diego, CA — (SBWIRE) — 02/04/2013 – Getting a ticket for traffic violation in California will often mean having to go through a rather expensive and time-consuming process. In most cases, violators have to physically appear in court to defend their ticket and pay court fees – not to mention also settle the insurance charges incurred. Depending on the traffic violation, people may also be required to attend traffic school prior to being cleared.
Contrary to popular belief, holders of red light camera or speeding tickets do not have to pay the fine and all the additional insurance expenses that come along with the ticket. Instead, violators can turn to California traffic court’s Trial by Written Declaration, which entails no court appearances, no traffic school, no court fees, and therefore, no wasted time.
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Ticket Snipers is California’s premier traffic ticket resource, offering a comprehensive self-help legal solution in helping drivers contest traffic tickets through the mail. A performance-based law group, Ticket Snipers charges clients only if the case is won.
Ticket Snipers Acquires BBB Accreditation in Helping Clients Fight a Red Light Camera Violation in California
San Diego, CA — (SBWIRE) — 11/13/2012 — Getting a ticket for traffic violation is tantamount to owing fines and, in many cases, additional penalties that come with the delinquency. Without the appropriate defense, drivers limit their ability to, among other things, fight a red light camera violation. In the State of California, violators can turn to Ticket Snipers when trying to be proactive about the situation.
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About Ticket Snipers®:
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By Michael Goldstein Thursday, Aug 9 2012
Joe Edmiston, often praised as the man who helped create the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, saving its wild reaches from development, has a fan club of thousands. But he and his team at the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, or MRCA, also are in possession of a prodigious amount of hate mail — hundreds of letters from recipients of the tickets issued by the MRCA.Park visitors like Courtney and Ted Balaker are livid about the stop-sign tickets.
Angry mail from Southern California residents has piled up at the authority’s headquarters, letting them know how sleazy, outrageous and stupid people find the agency, its leaders and its “stop-sign camera ticket program.”
On March 15, L.A. Weekly reported that the controversial $175 tickets, issued by cameras tucked in out-of-the-way parking lots and on quiet roads in local state parks, have been sent to 70,000 stunned visitors in the past five years (“Parks Agency Money Grab”).
Thousands of unsuspecting drivers fail to stop at, or slowly roll through, the seven stop signs because Edmiston’s agency has placed them in oddball locations — at the exit from a small scenic overlook, for example, or midblock on a dead-end road near a trailhead. The tickets have proved to be a moneymaker for the Mountains Authority, providing up to a fat 7 percent of its annual operating revenue, and amounting to more than $2 million in some years.
Several days before the Weekly’s article ran in March, and unbeknownst to the paper, Edmiston’s team quietly reduced the $175-per-ticket fine to $100. Seeking to learn the date of the change and to determine whether any notice had been given to drivers, the Weekly made a California Public Records Act request — and discovered hundreds of complaints.
The letters also revealed that the Mountains Authority is aggressively peering into Southern Californians’ bank accounts, demanding to know their Social Security income and insisting they divulge their personal spending. That’s happening in cases where motorists have exercised their right to challenge their tickets but don’t want to pay a deposit to the agency first.
The letters reveal that Edmiston, his staff and other parks employees involved in the ticketing program have created far more ill will than previously known.
One source of the anger? A $25 up-front “hearing fee,” required from anyone challenging a ticket. The Mountains Authority requires that anyone declining to pay the fee fill out an “Advance Deposit Hardship Waiver.”
In applying for the waiver, MRCA puts people through the wringer. The parks agency requires applicants to make personal statements; provide household income, home value, rental costs and food costs; and divulge their SSI checks, unemployment compensation and more.
Jay Beeber, who became a Southern California folk hero when he used LAPD accident data to prove that the now-abandoned Los Angeles red-light camera program was a revenue generator that did not make streets safer, says, “The first time I saw the [MRCA hardship waiver] form, I was surprised at the invasive nature of it. I don’t think they have any business asking those questions!”
Adds attorney R. Allen Baylis, an outspoken critic of Edmiston and the stop-sign cameras, “I think they made it as onerous as possible so people would just pay them.”
The 114 letters obtained by the Weekly catalog all kinds of anger about the camera tickets — and show that people have been forced to reveal personal, even humiliating things, in order to challenge their tickets without first coughing up the $25 deposit.
One woman wrote, “I am a 78-year-old senior living on $800 per month with no assets and work at cleaning people’s houses when I can.” She was deeply in debt, including $8,000 in monthly credit card payments. Her waiver was granted.
But one car owner wrote, “Daughter’s boyfriend was driving. He is in college and has no money. Cannot get his parents to pay.” Under the “assets” section, the writer listed his home as “underwater” with a modest household income of $4,000 monthly. He was required to pay the up-front $25.
Another driver claimed an income of $1,000 per month. “I am on unemployment and barely have enough money to feed myself and pay rent and bills,” she wrote. She got her waiver. Perhaps the notation under “total expenses” — “Mom helps” — melted the hearts of the ticket collectors.
The fee is refunded if drivers win their case or, more often, applied to their bill when they lose. Drivers challenging their $100 or $175 tickets must appear before private adjudicators — hired by the Mountains Authority. And while Edmiston’s staff insists the judges are independent of the authority, attorney Baylis calls the hearing “a sure loser” for motorists. And, in fact, few motorists win. For example, of 5,357 visitors ticketed at Temescal Gateway Park, just 282 had their violations dismissed — about 6 percent. This, despite the fact that the authority’s stop-sign cameras do not take photos of the driver’s face, unlike other traffic cameras. (The Mountain Authority’s utter lack of proof that the motorist being targeted was actually at the wheel makes up an entire category of hate mail in the letters.)
One man summed up the anger engendered by the Mountains Authority in a single, scathing paragraph:
“As you are very aware, the company that you hired to scam park visitors into pressing your visitors to pay a very large fine for a camera ticket that doesn’t even show the driver is nothing more than a very bad way to collect money. … Threatening someone’s credit, mine being as perfect as possible, is another threat. … Then to ask for money to have a hearing is another bully tactic.”
In fact, as the Weekly previously reported, LAPD determined from accident records that the seven cameras are at locations with no record of reportable traffic incidents since 2005 — meaning no accidents either before or after Edmiston and the MRCA board had the cameras installed in 2007.
Park staff insists the cameras are needed to reduce vehicular threats to walkers, hikers and other pedestrians. “We feel we are saving lives and preventing injuries,” senior ranger Jewel Johnson says. “Park users tell us all the time that they feel safer.”Park visitors like Courtney and Ted Balaker are livid about the stop-sign tickets.But the lack of accidents historically suggests the cameras are in place to help MRCA collect revenue, as the angry letter writer suggests.
And it is big money. From March 1 to June 30 of this year, 6,380 people — or $638,000 in potential revenue — have received automatic tickets from the seven cameras. That’s a 15 percent increase over the same period in 2011, despite media coverage and warnings by other park lovers to watch out and never roll past the stop line.
Doug Dobransky, a retired cameraman and Vietnam vet who has been to Franklin Canyon Park “hundreds of times” for its peace and beauty, frequently took his terminally ill sister there.
She was dying of cancer. “She loved Andy Griffith,” which was filmed nearby at Franklin Canyon Reservoir, says Dobransky, “and she loved the lake.”
But in December, Dobransky says he saw the true nature of the Mountains Authority when he got a ticket — $175 for being “a foot over the line” at one of Joe Edmiston’s most lucrative stop signs.
The outraged Dobransky won’t go back to his beloved park — and he blames “Edmiston’s sneaky and cowardly methods.”
He explains to the Weekly: “I wrote a letter saying I was guilty of going over a line” at the stop sign on the road that winds along the canyon’s reservoir. Then he frankly explained his financial situation to the Mountains Authority: “I’m retired, on a fixed income. It’s a little steep. $175. I would appreciate a little consideration on the money.”
But when he heard back, he says, the message was, “Sorry, the $175 stands.” He paid it. And then he added a final message in a letter to the Mountains Authority: “Because of this ticket, I will never go back to your park.”
By Yvonne Beltzer
Beginning this Friday, if you plan to go to traffic school to expunge a traffic ticket in California, you may face some roadblocks.Under a new law that takes effect on July 1, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will be keeping track of repeat traffic offenders.
Drivers with points on their licenses can go to traffic school, but the courts will no longer dismiss infractions against them.
In the past, when courts dismissed an infraction, the driver had his or her record cleared and the DMV had no clear picture of the driver’s actual history. So drivers who got repeat tickets were able to go to traffic school more than once in an 18-month period and thus avoid stiffer penalties. According to the DMV, the new law simply closes this loophole.
Under it, a driver’s attendance at traffic school will go on a record that the courts and the DMV can see, but it will be kept from insurance companies. Drivers will only be permitted to go to traffic school once in 18 months and because of the change in the law, the court will know whether or not a driver has attended traffic school in the recent past.
If the driver has attended traffic school within 18 months, he or she will get points on their license and his or her insurance company will be notified.
A driver will be permitted to attend traffic school if his or her previous attendance took place more than 18 months ago.Many people are not familiar with the DMV point system, used to track traffic violations.When a patrol officer issues a citation, that information is relayed to the DMV. Each offense carries a different addition of points that are added to the license of a driver convicted of a violation.
Drivers who accumulate points within a one-year period can have their licenses suspended. Points can remain on a license for three year. Any new violations increase the chance of suspension.
Drivers with more severe traffic offenses may find the points remaining on their licenses for 10 years. Call Ticket Snipers today to dismiss your traffic violation and avoid traffic school all together!
By Gary Biller
May 14, 2012
Gary Biller is president of the National Motorists Association.
Red-light cameras threaten the public interest in critical ways and should be outlawed across the country. Fifteen states already have banned automated traffic enforcement, mostly on constitutional grounds. Several key tenets of a citizen’s due process rights are violated by red-light camera ticketing. Among them:
There is no certifiable witness to the alleged violation. The defendant loses the right to cross-examine his accuser in court. The driver is not positively identified by the camera, so the default is to charge the vehicle’s registered owner with the violation. The owner, who may not have been the driver, is presumed guilty. A bedrock principle of our justice system—a defendant is innocent until proven guilty—is unceremoniously jettisoned.
The chain of custody of photo evidence is murky at best, shifting electronically between the camera vendor and the local police department before a ticket is issued. Yet rarely is a representative of the red-light camera company made available to testify in court as to the gathering, handling, or interpretation of the evidence. Several appellate courts in California have thrown out lower court ticket camera convictions on the basis that the photo evidence was hearsay. The rulings noted that there were no witnesses in court to testify about that evidence.
In the states that continue to permit photo enforcement, there have been 24 local elections since 1991 that presented voters with the choice to keep or eliminate the cameras. In all but one instance, ticket camera programs were defeated.
The one exception occurred last November, when the voters of East Cleveland, Ohio, narrowly approved the retention of red-light cameras. The mayor forewarned his constituents that the elimination of the cameras—more specifically, the camera revenue—would force the city to fire dozens of police officers and firefighters. It is not hard to imagine that East Cleveland voters felt coerced into keeping the ticket cameras.
Red-light cameras are a money-making enterprise for the cities that deploy them and for the camera vendors that build their business profitability around the ticketing machines. Proponents claim that cameras improve intersection safety by deterring red-light running and by ticketing rolling-right-turn-on-red drivers. Yet numerous studies, including an investigative report by the Washington Post, have shown accident rates increasing by double-digit percentages after the introduction of cameras.
Red-light cameras do not improve intersection safety, they degrade it. If the cameras significantly reduced infractions, they would eventually vanish from the landscape. But cameras only disappear when they aren’t making a profit. A recent example is the demise of the Los Angeles red-light camera program. Another is the elimination of red-light cameras by several North Carolina cities in the mid to late 2000s after a higher court ruled that 90 percent of ticket camera revenue in the state had to be applied to public education programs.
If traffic safety is the true goal, increase the yellow-light duration at problem intersections by one second. Several cities have done just that, including Loma Linda, Calif., which realized an immediate and lasting 92 percent reduction in red-light offenses.
Banning red-light cameras nationwide will allow motorists to regain the due process rights afforded all citizens, and will punctuate the conclusion that ticket cameras are about revenue, not safety.