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UPDATED: City to stick by its red-light cameras

Program increases safety, officials say

Posted: June 22, 2011 1:24 p.m.
Updated: June 22, 2011 1:24 p.m.
 


Santa Clarita city officials said they stand by their red-light traffic camera system this week, despite the city of Los Angeles’ consideration of ditching its system.

Intersections with the cameras installed are safer than before they were installed, and the city is not losing money, as Los Angeles reportedly was, said Andrew Yi, traffic engineer for the city.

In Santa Clarita, broad-side collisions are down 64 percent, red-light violations are down 71 percent and injury collisions are down 19 percent at intersections with the traffic cameras, Yi said.

Broad-side collisions are the most common type of accident when someone runs a red light.

“We’ve been making money on the cameras, but I don’t know if that’s going to remain,” Yi said. “We may decline in citations as people become more aware of the cameras, but that’s the goal of the cameras.”

Any revenue generated by the red-light camera program goes back into the city’s traffic-safety program, a city spokeswoman said.

The Los Angeles City Council considered abandoning its red-light camera program this week on the recommendation of its police commission. The cameras — which snap pictures of drivers who run red lights — is losing money and does not improve traffic safety, the police commission said.

The Los Angeles City Council could not agree on what to do about the commission’s recommendation, so the proposal is being negotiated.

Revenue source
It’s possible Santa Clarita’s program would be reviewed if it began losing money, Yi said. “That is something we would have to look at in the future.”

Citations from the city’s cameras, installed in 2004 and 2006, are approved by law enforcement and sent out by Redflex Traffic System, the company that operates the cameras, said Mark Hunter, a traffic engineer for Santa Clarita.

According to Hunter, the program generated $124,252 for the 2009 to 2010 fiscal year. For the 2009 to 2010 fiscal year, the program cost $556,694 and grossed $680,946, Hunter said.

A red-light camera ticket is generally $480; the money is divided among the city, county and state, Hunter said. The city and county get $150 each and the state gets $180, Hunter said.
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“We’re pretty confident in how the program is working and we review it every year,” Yi said.

Residents react
Santa Clarita Valley residents have mixed feelings about the cameras.

“I don’t support the cameras because they don’t work properly,” said Deanna Miller, a 32-year-old Santa Clarita resident.

She says she’s successfully fought two tickets by arguing the cameras were shooting motorists ahead of her but instead captured her stopped at a red light.

Miller does not believe the cameras encourage safer driving, despite the city’s evidence to that effect.

Other residents, however, think the cameras help them and others slow down.

“I think the cameras are a good thing because we’re more cautious when there’s a monetary consequence,” said Jacqui Rathner, a 42-year-old Santa Clarita resident.

Even if the city did start losing money on the cameras, they would be worth the cost because they help avoid fatal accidents, Rathner said.

“You only live one life, your neighbor only lives one life, and your kids only live one life,” Rathner said.

“When I see a camera, I’m definitely more cautious to not get close to the yellow light.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This version corrects the reduction of broad-side collisions at intersections with red-light cameras.

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