A Southern California state legislator is just about as fed up with red light cameras as you are.

The devices, often installed more for fund raising than for safety, are the object of drivers' ire. Critics say they often prompt folks to stop short instead of risking a ticket, thus resulting in increased rear-end crashes.

What's more, the cash the devices bring to local governments' coffers has been negligible, inspiring some cities, like Los Angeles, to take them down.

Those that haven't, like Beverly Hills, have been accused by some of running rackets where shorter-than-usual yellow light phases translate to the ringing of cash registers at red light camera intersections.

In Los Angeles County ignoring red light tickets, thankfully, comes with little legal consequence.

There are legitimate questions about the citations' legality, since authorities can't prove you received such a ticket, you never promised to appear in court via signature, and it's technically impossible to have a machine testify in court, even though the United States Constitution says you have the right to question your accuser.

Luckily Huntington Beach Assemblyman Matthew Harper is on the case. He recently introduced legislation that would outlaw the installation of new red light cameras anywhere in California.

And the bill would require safety studies for all existing red light cameras in the state, too. Says his office:

Credit: File photo by Andrea James/Flickr

Credit: File photo by Andrea James/Flickr

Studies examining the impact of the cameras on collision rates have shown that red light cameras cause an increase in collisions. One intersection in Los Angeles saw an 80 percent increase in rear-end collisions after cameras were installed. The city of Murrieta, reported a 325 percent increase in collisions.

Jay Beeber, L.A.'s own “red light camera hero,” supported the bill for those very reasons. His own research has helped to lead to longer yellow lights in cities that have yellow phases determined to be too short. Quick yellow lights pared with red light cameras have proven to be rear-end collision magnets, he has argued.

Beeber told us:

The original promise of red light cameras was that they would make our roadways safer. That hasn't happened.

… Preventing new red light camera installations is definitely the right thing to do. And the cities that use them should be required to prove that they are indeed improving safety. If they can't, they should be forced to remove them.

He says the cameras are “on their way out” in California, anyway:

In California, there were about 110 red light camera programs at one time or other. Since then, 73 jurisdictions have closed, banned cameras, or are about to close their programs. That leaves 39 continuing programs in California. I suspect other cities will drop out as they begin implementing the new longer yellow signal time requirements we got approved last year.

Harper also reiterated the argument that revenue created by the tickets doesn't cover the costs of maintaining red light camera programs. The Republican says:

Red light cameras are failing on all fronts. This bill will end wasteful spending on an ineffective program and will make our roads safer at the same time.


Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.