In a 50-3 vote, California's lower house has approved a bill that would restrict the way state and local governments use automated traffic enforcement systems, namely the controversial red-light camera.
In addition to plain language that would outlaw the use of red-light cameras for revenue generation or any other reason than public safety, SB 29 amends the state Vehicle Code in a number of ways. For instance, the bill requires that local government agencies produce a fact-finding statement that establishes a public safety need for a red-light camera system at a particular intersection. Also, any third-party system supplier/operator (in cooperation with its government contractor) would be required to submit an annual report to the Judicial Council as part of an oversight program.
Furthermore, governments would be required to develop uniform guidelines for issuing citations and would have to clearly explain how to dispute a ticket. Interestingly, the bill also allows the third-party issuing agency, manufacturer, or supplier of the automated traffic enforcement system to mail a Judicial Council approved “courtesy notice” or a specified notice “other than a notice to appear to the registered owner or the alleged violator prior to issuing a notice to appear."
The most noticeable aspect of the proposed changes for drivers would start next year with the mandatory installation of warning signs within 200 feet of intersections that have automated traffic-light cameras. Some are worried the bill's language does not go far enough to hold red-light camera operators accountable for tickets wrongfully issued as a result of equipment malfunction or ambiguities associated with the enforcement of yellow-light traffic scenarios.
According to an AP report:
“Sen. Joe Simitian introduced SB29 after a complaint from one of his constituents. The woman told the Palo Alto Democrat that she was repeatedly notified that she had been caught on red-light cameras in Southern California, but that the photos showed a different car and driver.”
If the bill passes the Senate without any sort of enforcement teeth, it might not do much to ease concerns of residents, such as Simitian's constituent, who have been unjustly cited for driving infractions they did not commit.