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Red-light camera tickets not optional in SCV, officials say

Posted: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.

With the city of Santa Clarita recently re-upping its contract with the company that provides its red light cameras, an old question has again emerged: Can you simply ignore the ticket you receive from one of the cameras?

Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston posed the question to City Attorney Joe Montes during last Tuesday’s council meeting.

“No,” Montes responded. “There’s a sheriff’s liaison tasked specifically with enforcing these cases, and she’s in court regularly dealing with these tickets.”

Sgt. Richard Cohen with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station shared a similar sentiment.

“That would be like me issuing you a regular citation and you not going to court,” he said.

Part of the ambiguity for drivers facing a red-light camera ticket — and the near-$500 fine that comes with it — could come from the fact that tickets given out as a result of red-light camera violations are handled a bit differently than those given out directly by law enforcement personnel.

First, unlike a traditional ticket, a driver doesn’t sign a citation at the time of the offense, so there’s not necessarily a direct agreement or promise to show up in court.

Second, red light camera tickets are sent to the owner of the car captured on camera, though that person may not have been driving the car at the time of the offense.

There are roughly 550 red-light violations at the seven intersections throughout Santa Clarita that are monitored with red-light cameras every month, according to city figures.

Intersections monitored by red-light cameras are McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard, McBean Parkway and Magic Mountain Parkway, McBean Parkway and Newhall Ranch Road, Newhall Ranch Road and Bouquet Canyon Road, Bouquet Canyon Road and Seco Canyon Road, Whites Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road, and Lyons Avenue and Orchard Village Road.

The fine amount for a red light ticket is $490, $150 of which goes to the city. The city sees an average yearly revenue of $674,790 and an average yearly net revenue of $92,553 as a result of the fines.

But city officials say it’s not the money that motivates the program, it’s the impacts on road safety.

According to statistics from the city’s traffic division, the average yearly number of broadside collisions — which Cohen described as the ones that can be the most dangerous — decreased 60 percent at intersections monitored by red light cameras, while decreasing 12 percent at other city intersections.

“So we have definitely seen a decrease overall in side-impact collisions where the red-light cameras are,” Cohen said.

The average yearly number of total collisions has also fallen 18 percent at monitored intersections compared to 7 percent at other city intersections, according to figures.
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