Simitian's red-light-camera bill vetoed

Legislator's proposal sought to create new restrictions on cameras, added protection for drivers

A proposal by Sen. Joe Simitian to set new restrictions on red-light cameras hit the wall Thursday (Oct. 6) when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it.

Senate Bill 29 would have prohibited cities from using red-light cameras to raise revenues and required signs at all locations where such cameras are in use. It also sought to make it easier for ticketed drivers to challenge the citations. The bill had passed unanimously in the Senate and cleared the Assembly by a 70-4 vote before Brown vetoed it.

In his veto message, Brown wrote that the bill "standardizes rules for local governments to follow when installing and maintaining red light cameras."

"This is something that can and should be overseen by local elected officials," Brown wrote.

But Simitian, D-Palo Alto, called the veto a "lost opportunity to help restore public trust in the purpose and operation of red-light cameras by bringing accountability and fairness to the process."

"I think we can keep folks safe and still give the driving public a fair shake," Simitian said in a statement. "I'm sorry the Governor didn't agree."

The proposal to strengthen state regulations on red-light cameras emerged from Simitian's annual "There Outghta Be a Law" competition. San Jose resident Vera Gil had proposed the bill after receiving several tickets from red-light cameras for a car she said she does not own and had never driven.

Simitian said in a statement that he hears similar complaints from other constituents.

"Discussion of the legislation over the past two years confirmed my initial suspicion that Ms. Gil's case was just the tip of the iceberg," Simitian said.

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Posted by Mical Brenzel
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I am disappointed that State Senator Simitian's bill was vetoed by the Governor. We did need more accountability for the tickets that are spewed out by the red light cameras in this area, particularly those along El Camino Real in Menlo Park. These cameras are not catching real red light violators and speeders. They are largely catching people who make right turns on red and simply don't slow down enough to be deemed "within the law" by the hyper-sensitive setting of these cameras. The cameras function purely as a revenue-raising device for the City of Menlo Park. They do not function to improve public safety. The cameras probably detract from public safety because drivers act just to avoid a photo flash event.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm

"This is something that can and should be overseen by local elected officials," Brown wrote.

There lies the problem/challenge.

There are several suppliers of the cameras and ticket producers.

I have stated before publicly that RedFlex Inc. of Arizona had its software hacked by someone in San Mateo County. This person (s) overrode the DMV data base and inserted my name and address onto a ticket number SM09926 issued May, 02, 2006.

What I got after a couple of phone calls to San Mateo Police Department was my ticket was removed from the computer system and was gone in minutes...puff.

I don't think RedFlex should be allowed to do business in San Mateo County period.

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Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm

A week or two ago I witnessed a grossly malfunctioning Red Light Camera as I sat at the intersection of Ravenswood and El Camino. I was the front car in a lane waiting to turn left onto Southbound El Camino Real from Ravenswood. The light was red for me, so I had an entire cycle of the light to just watch the intersection. It was night, and the bright flash of the red light camera kept going off incessantly. Yet I saw not a single car in that intersection do anything wrong. That's right, no one ran a red light. No drivers committed any traffic violations. Yet the camera was snapping away every few seconds. Clearly something not right. Hopefully no real tickets were issued during that session of chronic photo-snapping.

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Posted by Henry
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2011 at 2:30 am

In case anyone hasn't figured it out, Sen. Simitian is not the motorist's friend. Joe's bill pretended to be red light camera reform, but actually would have made it worse for drivers. For example, it would have decreased the number of warning signs at camera enforced intersections. Fortunately, Gov. Brown must have taken the time to read the bill all the way thru. Thus his veto.

But not all is good. Brown signed Mike Gatto's AB 529, which will allow cities to reduce posted speeds by 5 mph, even on streets with a great safety record. The lower posted speeds will allow cities to shorten yellows, which will increase red light cam ticketing by at least 50%. (Four of the sponsoring cities have red light cams.) Worse, the shortening will increase severe accidents by 30 to 40%. (Source: "Development of Guidelines for Treating Red-Light Running," Texas Transp. Inst. pg 2-20.)

The lower speed limits also will make it easier for California cities to issue speeding tickets - and is groundwork for future legislation legalizing speed cameras (photo radar, like they have in Arizona).

Mr. Gatto is very proud of his legislation. It is only fitting that the new speed traps should be called Gatto Traps, with the new shorter yellows called Gatto Yellows.

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Posted by Henry
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2011 at 5:43 am

And one more thing about Joe's bill.

It contained, up til Aug. 26, a passage requiring a clear and prominent statement on the fake tickets many cities mail out, that there is no penalty for failure to respond. (These fake tickets, also called Snitch Tickets, are made to look like real tickets, and are mailed to registered vehicle owners to trick them into disclosing the identity of the driver in a red light camera photograph.)

That passage was a problem - cities profiting from the use of the Snitch Tickets didn't want their trickery to be exposed, and they got Joe's bill suspended, held up in a committee. It wasn't gonna pass. Poor Joe had a tough choice to make - remove the requirement for the statement saying there's no penalty for failure to respond, or watch the bill die in committee. He desperately wanted the bill to pass - it would be a notch on his gun - so he allowed the bill to be stripped.

I give Gov. Brown credit for recognizing a piece of stripped-out junk pretending to be "reform," and vetoing it.

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Posted by Joe Donnellan
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

Simitian was right to bring forward this bill and I hope that this is not the end of it. Privatized traffic law enforcement systems may or may not be a useful tool in keeping drivers and pedestrians safe. But when private firms and municipalities consider profits first, and safety second, the public interest is threatened. Before pursuing a camera system contract, local governments should heed the advice (Web Link ) of the Federal Highway Administration and first investigate traffic engineering solutions for problem intersections or roadways. If officials decide that private enforcement systems are appropriate, they should avoid deals that constrain decisions about protecting safety. Privatized traffic law enforcement should be used solely as a tool for enhancing traffic safety – not as a cash cow for municipalities or private firms.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group will be releasing a report on this subject on October 27. Once it is released, it will be available at

- Joe Donnellan for U.S. PIRG

Like this comment
Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

I received a red-light camera ticket last year at Ravenswood and El Camino. The yellow light timing was less than allowable under the law (I counted frames in the supplied video), and the court threw the ticket out on (among other things) that basis. When I posted about that in these forums months ago, I was criticized for being a dangerous driver. Anyway, in my view, these camera enforcement systems are really a hidden tax attempt. There were many people in the courtroom paying $468 fines who clearly could not afford to, yet did not understand the tickets are legally defective on many levels. One single mother asked for a work program because she couldn't afford the fine. It was sad.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

There is another element to some of these (cameras)...think video.

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Posted by benjones
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I guess the government will get more acquisition in it, more cash are induced for MP's expenses under this so called road safety. Well there are no significant evidences that speed cameras lessen accidents..To that the new technology somewhat enforce the law and that's might as well an advantage and a disadvantage.Red-light cams have become increasingly widespread since their release in the early 1990s. The cams digitally take a picture of any car that crosses and intersection on a red light. Tickets are then issues and sent out the vehicle's listed proprietor. Opponents say they invade on privacy and they are more about earnings than public security. Fans say that they're a cost-effective way to keep drivers in check. Source of article: Web Link Do red-light cameras put profit over public safety?

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