News

Proposed law could halve fines for right-turn-on-red violations

 

Frank Viggiano of Palo Alto was recently slapped with a $490 fine when a red-light camera caught him turning right at a red light from El Camino Real onto Ravenswood Avenue in Menlo Park.

He and his wife had been driving their daughter home to her Menlo Park apartment around 9 or 10 p.m., he said an email to the Menlo Park City Council. At that time, he said, there was very little traffic and no pedestrians or bicycles around.


He told the council the fine was "absurd" and that he planned to boycott all Menlo Park businesses until the fines are reduced. After learning that cities don't control the fines, he said he is no longer planning to boycott the city.

"While I support the need to enforce traffic rules, and even agree that such a system (referring to the red-light cameras) can be a very effective way to do it, I think that the $490 fine is far more than the amount necessary to act as a deterrent. Half that amount would already be quite painful and serve as a lasting reminder to be more careful," he said.

Mr. Viggiano may just get his wish.

California Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo County, has introduced a bill that would reduce the fines drivers pay if they get caught turning right at a red light without first coming to a complete stop.

Senate Bill 493 would reduce the base fine to $35, down from the $100 current fine.

The base fine is only a part of the total amount one pays with a moving-violation ticket, but it determines the cost of other fees that must be paid to the state and county.

Currently, a ticket with a $100 base fine actually means the driver would pay about $540 in fees, including traffic school costs, and about $490 without traffic school. Reducing the base fine to $35 would mean the total fees collected would be about $290 with traffic school, or $240 without – roughly half of the current cost.

Turning right on a red light without first coming to a complete stop would still be illegal and would add a point to a driver's record, Sen. Hill's office said.

Sen. Hill said in an interview that the fines for red-light traffic violations were hiked in 1997, but the intention then wasn't for right-on-red violations to have the same penalty as more dangerous offenses such as driving straight through, or turning left, on a red light.

Other moving violations that carry a $100 base fine are driving more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit, and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. The author of the 1997 bill later said raising the penalties for right-on-red violations was a mistake, Sen. Hill's office said.

"The fine doesn't fit the crime," he said. In recent years, the state senator has been contacted by constituents more than 50 times about the costly fines, his office said.

Revenue generator

Exacting hefty fines for right-on-red traffic violations should not be a revenue generator, Sen Hill said. "I believe it has turned into one."

Cities with red-light cameras, such as Menlo Park and San Mateo, are generating revenue from these citations, he said.

In 2013 in Menlo Park, he said, Redflex, the company that is contracted to operate the city's red-light photo enforcement program, captured data that resulted in the police department issuing fines for red-light violations that added up to $1.3 million. Fine and fee revenues are split into state, county and local funds. That year, there were a total of 2,802 red light-violations reported in Menlo Park, and 395, or about 14 percent, came from right-on-red violations, according to Redflex data obtained from Sen. Hill's office.

Reducing the base fine could result in an annual loss of about $7.5 million to various state funds, a legislative analysis of the bill reports.

This is the fourth time Sen. Hill has tried to pass the bill. In 2010, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said it would send the wrong message regarding the state's tolerance for these types of offenses, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Sen. Hill tried again twice last year to pass it.

This year, he said, he is optimistic it will pass.

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Route66
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2017 at 9:43 pm

Despite Menlo Park's claim to the contrary, cities can control the amount of the camera fine.

1. They have the option to cite under subsection (b) of 21453 instead of sub. (a) or (c). Los Angeles did that for years. Sub. (b) carries a $35 base fine. (Hill's bill would make the use of (b) mandatory.)

2. They have the option to cite only the egregious cases. The president of Redflex was quoted in the WSJ saying that right turn tickets should be issued only when a pedestrian was in the crosswalk.


27 people like this
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 2, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Running red lights to make right turns is one of the most common causes of cars hitting pedestrians in crosswalks. The car driver is staring towards car traffic coming from the left, which completely distracts them from pedestrians in the crosswalk to the right. Especially at night, a driver cannot tell if there are pedestrians in a crosswalk unless they come to a complete and legal stop to give them time to study the entire length of the crosswalk before proceeding. The fact that some car drivers don't understand this is reason enough to strictly enforce the law and keep the fines high enough to deter this behavior.


8 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2017 at 8:30 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

pedestrian:

I can't recall reading or hearing about a pedestrian being struck in a crosswalk at Ravenswood by someone making a right on red in over 20 years. The whole red light camera thing is just a way for MP to make money. Red light cameras are supposedly to prevent accidents caused by red light runners. In all the time before they placed a camera at Ravenswood they had zero accidents caused by red light runners. So why place a camera there? MONEY.


2 people like this
Posted by Tampsters
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Mar 3, 2017 at 8:59 am

Let's make the fine one million dollars.

Speeding is a half million.

Or we can make it a reasonable amount. Cutting it in half is a good start.


6 people like this
Posted by MP Red Light
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2017 at 9:57 am

Menlo Park's contract with Redflex violates Vehicle Code section 21455.5 (g) which provides "“(1) A contract between a governmental agency and a manufacturer or supplier of automated enforcement equipment may not include provision for the payment or compensation to the manufacturer or supplier based on the number of citations generated, or as a percentage of the revenue generated…".

Page 25 of the contract states: "Cost neutrality is assured to Customer. Cost neutrality is assured to Customer using this methodology as Customer will never pay Redflex more than actual cash received…".

Point this out in court and the citation will be dismissed. Menlo Park should not be operating the red light cameras with this contract.


29 people like this
Posted by Outraged
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 3, 2017 at 10:05 am

How in the world could this have been avoided?!!!

Seriously though. Our area needs more drivers to obey the rules as opposed to reducing the fines for those who break the rules. Yeah, it sucks that you got caught. You knew you were supposed to stop before going right on red. Deal with it. Learn from it.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Outraged, your analysis is a bit too simplistic. MP has been running the yellows shorter than the law proscribes to be able to maximize revenues. That's a safety issue.


1 person likes this
Posted by Route66
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm

The info about the contract posted by MP Red Light no longer applies to MP, as the new contract the City signed in 2013 does not contain the Cost Neutral clause found in the original contract from 2006. Both contracts are posted on the Menlo Park Docs page at highwayrobbery (dot) net website.


4 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 3, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Having to fully stop behind the line is a silly law, as can be observed by the number of people who violate it safely. It should be legal to slow to a crawl and proceed around the turn if it is safe to do so.

Puritans may object, but that is how most people drive. It should be legal to drive like a normal person. Otherwise, it makes the law into a bit of a donkey which is routinely ignored. That is, unless a government entity comes up with some way of booby trapping the law for money, as is the case with Menlo Park...


31 people like this
Posted by Burt
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I walk about 4 miles a day on my train commute. Every week, EVERY WEEK, I see people not stopping for me or other pedestrians. Two weeks ago after waiting for a car to pull out from a stop sign who was blocking the crosswalk I then stepped into the walk, only to be cut off by an SUV who didn't look to see me, passing way past the stop line. Almost hit. I yelled, and she yelled back saying to back off - that she was late! Then this week I'm hit in a crosswalk by a car's mirror turning right behind me. BEHIND ME! He too said he was late. To get to Menlo Medical! I said I was sorry if I was in his way. So don't anybody tell me these fines should go down - people need to stop, look both ways, then proceed. Period.


8 people like this
Posted by Srini
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Joseph E. Davis: Spoken like a person who does not like to safely stop at a red light before turning right. Using your own logic, let's get enough people to go 60mph up El Camino, and then we can argue that we should be allowed to drive like "normal people".


3 people like this
Posted by End Red Light Cameras
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 3, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Red light camera do not promote the public safety and are a blatant money grab. IIRC, a disproportionate amount of penalties, on the order of 80%, are given to people who don't live in Menlo Park. So it's not the case that Menlo Park regulars are making infractions and learning from the penalties.

On the contrary, I've talked to numerous Uber drivers, many recent immigrants, who have fallen victim to these outrageous fees. Who can afford a $490 ticket, in an area that is already the least affordable around?

Let me be clear. If you endanger pedestrians, you deserve a ticket. However, you do not deserve a $490 ticket for turning right on a red light, with no oncoming traffic, and no pedestrians, where a camera alleges that you did not come to a complete stop. Not to mention that this is hearsay evidence which should be excluded.

Because a significant fraction of tickets are such, I am against red light camera.

The Menlo Park Council can end the program with a simple majority vote. Is there enough support to show up at town meetings and campaign for them to end the program?


14 people like this
Posted by How Pathetic
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Why is it that I get the sense that those who are *really* against red-light cameras are happen to be some of the worst drivers out there?


20 people like this
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 3, 2017 at 3:33 pm

@Burt is wrong. Cars do not cut off pedestrians every week in Menlo Park. I walk around town regularly and I see cars running stop signs and stop lights multiple times EVERY DAY. Don't tell me that you ran the stop sign or stoplight because you didn't see any pedestrians in the area. If I (a pedestrian in or near the crosswalk) saw you, then you would have seen me if had made a legal stop and actually looked at the crosswalk. The reason you didn't see any pedestrians may be because you didn't stop long enough to look carefully enough. This is why we need stricter enforcement of pedestrian right-of-way violations. If $500 fines are scaring UBER drivers into driving more safely, then please keep these fines and increase enforcement.


3 people like this
Posted by Barry Gray
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 3, 2017 at 3:37 pm

I've had a California drivers license for just under 45 years and recall that the law is to fully stop - before the limit line - before proceeding to turn right on a red light. I don't see any need to change that law.

Indeed, like most, I'm not perfect in adhering to the law. But there is no excuse to yell at a pedestrian who is simply minding theIr own business.

I would be willing to halve the right turn on red fine if we double or triple the fine and enforcement of red light runners. That behavior is simply unconscionable and irresponsible.


5 people like this
Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Laurel School
on Mar 3, 2017 at 5:12 pm

I'm not going to weigh in on ticket amounts or red light cameras. I'm not well-versed enough on the merits and pros and cons of these tools.

What I am going to weigh in on is the need for our community to increase enforcement...of ourselves. We all need to take ownership of our neighborhoods and streets and collectively decide to obey traffic laws. The law states you need to:

- Stop at a red light before you make a right turn.
- Make a full stop at every stop sign.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Not use your phone - even at traffic lights - when driving.
- And on and on.

The police and the tickets and the red light cameras are all things that were put into place under the direction of elected officials who were voted into position by regular people. Voters. Constituents. Tax Payers. Us. The laws we have today reflect values that at one time our community cared about.

Yes, we are all busy. Yes, we are all late getting to where we need to go. Yes, we are all suffering from collective road rage brought on by our traffic crisis. But we need to rise above our own selfish needs to get somewhere faster, or to send one more text. We need to consider how our actions, our collective actions, are impacting our entire community. Our streets are dangerous to cross. Many of our kids must be driven short distances to school because there are no safe ways to get there walking or biking. If we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to keep getting what we're getting.

And yes, a lot of traffic in Menlo Park, especially down our major arteries (although, as evidenced by the Willows cut through traffic situation, also our smaller neighborhood streets), is not of our own doing. I've heard that 80% of traffic we experience neither starts or ends in Menlo Park. This doesn't mean, however, that we should just throw up our hands and give up. We have to take responsibility for the 20% of traffic that we can control. If we work together, we can have an impact.

As many of you know, Parents for Safe Routes recently launched in Menlo Park to advocate for kids being able to get to school safely. Our efforts will only be successful if the larger community shares our values and joins our cause. Safe Routes has benefits for the entire community, not just kids. More bikes, pedestrians, buses and carpools means fewer cars on the streets and less traffic for all. If all of us (the City, schools, parents, neighbors, everyone) work together across all Safe Routes E's (Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement, Equity and Evaluation) we can make a difference.

This is about shared accountability and building a community partnership. We can do it! To learn more check out a short slide deck (Web Link) or visit our website at www.parents4saferoutes.org.

Sincerely,
Jen Wolosin
Parents for Safe Routes
www.parents4saferoutes.org
Join our mailing list at Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by jcwconsult
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2017 at 5:44 am

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did a Report to Congress to prove that mandating right on red turns at most traffic lights was a safe mandate to reduce congestion, save fuel, reduce air pollution, and reduce the pressure to build more lanes to handle growing traffic volumes. The research did not differentiate between drivers who made a full stop and those that didn't. They found only six one-hundredths of one percent (0.06% or 0.0006) of crashes with injuries or fatalities also involved a right on red turn - including those with or without a full stop. Thus almost every $490 camera ticket for a slow rolling right on red turn or stopping just over a line goes to a safe driver who endangered absolutely no one. WHY is this true? It is because drivers can see potential conflicts with the right of way of a pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle just as well at the 5 or 8 mph turning speed as they can from a full stop. Tennessee made right on red camera tickets illegal and they should be illegal everywhere. These tickets are a government-run for-profit racket, not a safety program.

Web Link

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association


8 people like this
Posted by Pal
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 4, 2017 at 8:30 am

Srini... "using your own logic" let's make the fine a million bucks, or perhaps hanging.

6 tenths of 1 percent. Sheesh.

Money grab. Plain and simple.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 4, 2017 at 11:37 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

"...drivers can see potential conflicts with the right of way of a pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle just as well at the 5 or 8 mph turning speed as they can from a full stop." I agree.

Here's an interesting piece of information I found on the subject:
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by How Pathetic
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Did you actually READ the document you linked to, Hickey? Did you? At all?


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

how pathetic:

I did, did you?

"Research suggests that marked crosswalks can give pedestrians a false sense of
security since the rate of pedestrians being hit by a vehicle in a marked crosswalk is
about 3 times greater than in unmarked crossings. Pedestrians appear to use less
caution when crossing at a marked crosswalk than at locations where no marked
crosswalks exist, often times stepping off the curb into the roadway, expecting drivers
to stop.


Like this comment
Posted by How Pathetic
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

@(Non) Voter:

You left out this nugget -- which shows how pathetic Hickey's "source" is:
"For the approaching motorist, however, the crosswalk is not as visible as it is
to the crossing pedestrian."

WRONG.

Obviously, this was written by someone without a clue.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

how pathetic:

Unless I missed something, wasn't this produced by LAPD?


Like this comment
Posted by How Pathetic
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2017 at 6:10 pm

[Portion removed; be respectful of other posters]

The "work" in question was produced by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works -- which is right on the cover.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2017 at 8:49 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

how pathetic:

..well excuuuse me. gee, LA Dept of Public works has no expertise, right? I bet they have just a little bit more experience in this subject matter than you or me. No? Don't like the message attack the messenger, eh?


3 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

About 18 months ago, I received a citation for failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign. I decided to challenge it, and used PRA requests to gather facts.

Fact: In the past 2 years, 101 citations were issued at that intersection. Of that 101, 94 were issued in a two week period including the date I received mine.

Fact: The stop sign replaced a yield sign in 2008. I received the following in response to a PRA request: "As discussed, the stop sign replaced the yield sign in August 2008. I have not been able to locate the associated engineering study and/or staff report. The following generally outlines what we use to evaluate the need for a stop sign:

· Traffic volumes on each street
· Collision history
· Clarity of right-of-way (drivers understand and obey right-of-way)
· Visibility of conflicting traffic
· Volume of pedestrians/school-aged children"

Fact: There have been only 2 accidents recorded at the intersection since the year 2000, one with a minor injury and the other a hit-and-run with property damage only.

Fact: There were no pedestrians, bicycles or motor vehicles traveling in the vicinity of the intersection. My action was safe, and did not put anyone in harms way

Fact: While driving through the intersection several days after my citation, I observed a motorcycle officer concealed behind hedges in a private driveway from where he could observe the intersection.

In my opinion, there is no public benefit served by such activity. In fact, a follow-up on the 94 motorists whose day was negatively impacted may reveal some unintended consequences.

I am in policy discussions with the agency involved, and will be analyzing all traffic citations issued in the jurisdiction within the past 2 years to see if this was an isolated incident.



Like this comment
Posted by How Pathetic
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2017 at 3:17 pm

@Jack Hickey: What it comes down to, essentially, is that you failed to follow the law.

End. Of. Story.

Take your punishment, and do better next time.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 5, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

how pathetic:
You're missing the point. The citation triggered an inquiry. That inquiry revealed that, in a two week period, 94 individuals had their lives disrupted by the questionable activity of an officer of the law. Policy in this area needs to be clarified, and changed if appropriate..

That's what Jerry Hill is attempting to do vis-a-vis "red light cameras".


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 6, 2017 at 11:07 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Rationale for installing YIELD and/or STOP signs.

From: Web Link

Section 2B.04 Right-of-Way at Intersections
Support:
01 State or local laws written in accordance with the “Uniform Vehicle Code” (see Section 1A.11) establish the
right-of-way rule at intersections having no regulatory traffic control signs such that the driver of a vehicle
approaching an intersection must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle or pedestrian already in the intersection.
When two vehicles approach an intersection from different streets or highways at approximately the same time, the
right-of-way rule requires the driver of the vehicle on the left to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.
The right-of-way can be modified at through streets or highways by placing YIELD (R1-2) signs (see Sections
2B.08 and 2B.09) or STOP (R1-1) signs (see Sections 2B.05 through 2B.07) on one or more approaches.
Guidance:
02 Engineering judgment should be used to establish intersection control. The following factors should be
considered:
A. Vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic volumes on all approaches;
B. Number and angle of approaches;
C. Approach speeds;
D. Sight distance available on each approach; and
E. Reported crash experience.
03 YIELD or STOP signs should be used at an intersection if one or more of the following conditions exist:
A. An intersection of a less important road with a main road where application of the normal right-of-way rule
would not be expected to provide reasonable compliance with the law;
B. A street entering a designated through highway or street; and/or
C. An unsignalized intersection in a signalized area.
04 In addition, the use of YIELD or STOP signs should be considered at the intersection of two minor streets or
local roads where the intersection has more than three approaches and where one or more of the following
conditions exist:
A. The combined vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian volume entering the intersection from all approaches
averages more than 2,000 units per day;
B. The ability to see conflicting traffic on an approach is not sufficient to allow a road user to stop or yield in
compliance with the normal right-of-way rule if such stopping or yielding is necessary; and/or
C. Crash records indicate that five or more crashes that involve the failure to yield the right-of-way at the
intersection under the normal right-of-way rule have been reported within a 3-year period, or that three or
more such crashes have been reported within a 2-year period.
05 YIELD or STOP signs should not be used for speed control.
Support:
06 Section 2B.07 contains provisions regarding the application of multi-way STOP control at an intersection.
Guidance:
07 Once the decision has been made to control an intersection, the decision regarding the appropriate roadway to
control should be based on engineering judgment. In most cases, the roadway carrying the lowest volume of traffic
should be controlled.
08 A YIELD or STOP sign should not be installed on the higher volume roadway unless justified by an
engineering study.
Support:
09 The following are considerations that might influence the decision regarding the appropriate roadway upon
which to install a YIELD or STOP sign where two roadways with relatively equal volumes and/or characteristics
intersect:
A. Controlling the direction that conflicts the most with established pedestrian crossing activity or school
walking routes;
B. Controlling the direction that has obscured vision, dips, or bumps that already require drivers to use lower
operating speeds; and
C. Controlling the direction that has the best sight distance from a controlled position to observe conflicting
traffic.

Section 2B.06 STOP Sign Applications
Guidance:
01 At intersections where a full stop is not necessary at all times, consideration should first be given to using less
restrictive measures such as YIELD signs (see Sections 2B.08 and 2B.09).
02 The use of STOP signs on the minor-street approaches should be considered if engineering judgment indicates
that a stop is always required because of one or more of the following conditions:
A. The vehicular traffic volumes on the through street or highway exceed 6,000 vehicles per day;
B. A restricted view exists that requires road users to stop in order to adequately observe conflicting traffic on
the through street or highway; and/or
C. Crash records indicate that three or more crashes that are susceptible to correction by the installation of a
STOP sign have been reported within a 12-month period, or that five or more such crashes have been
reported within a 2-year period. Such crashes include right-angle collisions involving road users on the
minor-street approach failing to yield the right-of-way to traffic on the through street or highway.


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