The Los Angeles City Council may have voted to dump red light cameras, but Santa Clarita plans to keep them, crediting them for saving lives.
“We’ve had zero fatalities since the installation of the cameras,” said Gail Ortiz, Communications Manager for the city. “That speaks volumes. In terms of tools in the toolbox of traffic safety, it’s one of our most valuable.”
There are seven intersections with red light cameras in the city; the pilot project was launched in 2004 and the number brought up to seven in 2006. Ortiz was enthusiastic about the program success in decreasing the number of traffic offenses – and the boost to the city’s coffers from penalties was secondary.
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“Broadside collisions have gone down 64 percent, red light violations have gone down 71 percent and injuries are down 19 percent. But the best part are the zero fatalities.”
She said that in 2010, 5,793 red light tickets were issued, netting $125,000 for the city.
“Each ticket costs the violator $480,” she explained. “Of that, Santa Clarita gets $150 and our of that, we reimburse for equipment, leaving $120,000 net, of which 100 percent is put back into traffic safety programs.”
A loophole between the Superior Court and the California DMV gave Los Angeles city a reason to drop their program, with the red light fines virtually unenforceable. The Superior Court on its own does not have a collections program and since red light camera tickets aren’t issued by actual law enforcement officers, they don’t go on a person’s driving record. Those two issues combined caused a large number of drivers in LA to simply ignore the tickets.
Santa Clarita takes that step one further – there is a collection process that kicks into high gear should someone see the flash, get the picture and choose to ignore it.
“We’ll go after them,” Ortiz said.
In Los Angeles, there are red light cameras in 32 intersections that will be phased out by Sunday. Along with the program’s demise, the city will be left with approximately 65,000 unpaid tickets.