Better watch out for camera lenses the next time you blow through a red light in California. The state’s police force has become notorious for doling out red-light camera fines so high that they’ve become an $80 million source of public revenue, GasBuddy.com reports.
The typical fine for these violations is $480 – nearly twice the second-highest fine in the U.S. ($250), according to traffic site TheNewspaper.com. A single camera in Oakland, Calif. reels in $3 million per year.
“I think we’d all be better off without (red light cameras),” said Roger Jones, a Fremont, Calif. resident who created the Red Light Camera Protest Group. “There are better ways to address the problem.”
Jones has lobbied to give drivers longer yellow-light time frames and succeeded in convincing his hometown to tack an extra seven-tenths of one second to its yellow lights, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Kevin Fagan reports.
The result has been a 62 per cent drop in red-light tickets.
But police argue the cameras have been a huge contributor to a drop in motor vehicle accidents, catching more violations than a patrol car could ever manage alone. (See how being poor makes you more likely to get run over.)
Forget about the fact that more than half of the $480 fine goes directly into the cities’ pockets. A Fremont police officer told Fagan the red lights are there for one reason alone: safety.
“This is not a big moneymaker for us,” said Sgt. Mark Riggs, who claims his department makes about $250,000 off the cameras annually, after the city government and camera manufacturers take their cut.
According to his department, the cameras have resulted in a 40% drop in intersection accidents since they were installed in 2000.
California hasn’t garnered a reputation as a motorist-friendly state in recent years.
State legislators introduced a new law in October that would punish tax violators by confiscating their driver’s licenses and new businesses that help drivers get tickets dismissed have cropped up all over the state.