Oakland’s red light camera policy equals less safety for motorists and more money for private companies and the city.  

Senator Simitian, law enforcement and other groups claim that Red Light Cameras are about safety and not about revenue for city coffers and the private companies that install and maintain the camera systems.

According to a story by Mathew Artz of the Oakland Tribune, Oakland Traffic Engineers added ONE SECOND to yellow light times from four seconds to five seconds which resulted in a 50% drop in red light violations, approximately 40 fewer red light violations per day.

This act resulted in safer streets yet less money for the City of Oakland and Redflex the company that operates the Red Light Cameras.  The Oakland Police Department pressured engineers to return the yellow lights to the shorter four second duration which resulted in a dramatic increase in motorists running red lights causing more hazardous driving conditions, yet more revenue for the City of Oakland.

It is clear that Oakland is using its red-light camera program to specifically raise revenue, a million dollars a year or more in profit,  by decreasing the duration of yellow lights which reduces safety. 

Simitian’s Senate Bill 1303 protects drivers’ rights by:

• Requiring that camera locations be based solely on safety considerations;
• Specifically prohibiting the use of red-light cameras to raise revenue;

“We can keep the public safe, and still give California drivers a fair shake, Simitian said.

According to Emily Rusch, state director of CALPIRG, which supported the bill, “Private companies operating red light traffic enforcement cameras don’t just slap drivers with high fines.  The contracts they sign with cities are often so focused on high profits that they can literally be dangerous – by prohibiting smart safety measures like lengthening yellow lights,” 

Take a normal driver who gets ticketed for running a red light by a police officer in person.  That driver ticketed today has been informed at the scene of the incident that he cannot do what he did and will have to pay a hefty fine for committing the act.

The ticket and expecting fine are strong deterrents to committing the offense again at least in the near future curbing the hazardous driving.

Many drivers who get caught running red lights by “Red Light Cameras” don’t know they have been ticketed until several days and even weeks after the incident and get caught a second and third time for committing the same offense because they were not informed immediately of the first offense.

Failure to inform drivers of the first offense at the time of the offense results in the hazardous driving behavior continuing which does nothing to improve the safety of our roadways.  Additionally, the multiple offenses increases the amount of revenue that cities and private companies receive which they otherwise would not have had the drivers been informed of the first offense at the time of the offense.  The delay in informing drivers of their offense provides more money for cities and private companies while simultaneously increasing dangerous driving on our roadways.

Senator Simitian claims that his Bill gives California’s a fair shake, yet how is it a fair shake when someone who cautiously and safely makes a California Stop at a Red Light to turn right, (it is legal to turn right on a red after coming to a stop), is given the same fine and punishment as someone who blows through an intersection at 35mph on a Red Light through cross traffic 5 seconds after the light has turned red?

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

In United States v. Bajakajian the court found that Bajakajian did violate the law however it concluded, “Comparing the gravity of respondent’s crime with the $357,144, (monetary), forfeiture the Government seeks, we conclude that such a forfeiture would be grossly disproportional to the gravity of his offense. It is larger than the $5,000 fine imposed by the District Court by many orders of magnitude, and it bears no articulable correlation to any injury suffered by the Government… For the foregoing reasons, the full forfeiture of respondent’s currency would violate the Excessive Fines Clause.”  Justice Clarence Thomas wrote on behalf of the majority

Based upon the legal logic employed by the Supreme Court it would be certain that the Court would conclude that running a red light by traveling through an intersection into cross traffic at the maximum speed limit is many orders of magnitude more egregious of an assault on the public safety then someone who slows down to 1 to 2 mph to turn right on red into the flow of traffic.

To treat the two offenses as equal is contrary to the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and violates the excessive fine clause of the Eighth Amendment of any person who gets caught turning right on red at 1 mph who is punished with the same fine that is imposed on the person who runs a red light at a high rate of speed passing all the way through the intersection several seconds after the light has turned red.

It should also be noted that Mr. Simitian’s Bill is unconstitutional by allowing, “hear say” evidence in violation of the 6th Amendment.

According to a story by Gary Richards of the Mercury News,  “98 percent of the 672 red-light violations recorded over one two-month period at El Camino Real and Westborough Boulevard in South San Francisco were for right turns on red lights.  Other cities say four of five tickets go to people turning right on red.”

If Mr. Simitian were sincere about traffic safety and fairness to California drivers he wouldn’t be taking away $500.00 from every driver who fails to come to a complete stop while making a right turn on a red light which is legal.

Mr. Simitian’s refusal to include in his Bill the provision requiring that the yellow lights at Red-Light Camera enforced intersections would have a minimum duration of five seconds reveals the Mr. Simitian is not as concerned about the safety of California drivers as he is about the profits that cities like Oakland and private companies like Redlex earn.

Given that Mr. Simitian’s Bill was written with the help of Redflex it was highly unlikely that Mr. Simitian would have included anything that was truly beneficial to the citizens of California in the way of traffic safety and fairness.

Mr. Simitian’s Bill isn’t a fair shake, its using the law to shakedown the citizens.

“Injustice fights with two weapons, force and fraud..  A common form of injustice is chicanery, that is, an over-subtle, in fact a fraudulent construction of the law.”    Cicero – On Moral Duties




  1. I wonder what would happen if politicians had to put cameras in their backroom offices where private meetings and crooked deals are drawn up. I’d like to see how they would react to huge fines imposed on fleecing the people.

    Or a nice fat photo of the politician caught red handed cashing that nice big bribe check…

    They should make it about safety NOT money.


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