Thursday, June 19, 2014
(Yuba County) Another California Jury Indicts Red Light Cameras
June 18, 2014
The Yuba County, California grand jury on Tuesday issued a report blasting the red light camera program in Marysville. The citizens chosen to investigate the program analyzed every claim made by city officials, taking nothing for granted. The report documents a number of ways in which the city and its vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems, have been stretching the truth.
The Australian firm Redflex issues $479 tickets at five city intersections, but the city failed to produce accident data justifying use of the devices as a legitimate safety measure. The jury noted that red light cameras are the fourth most important municipal revenue source behind car taxes and property taxes.
At all but two of the camera-enforced intersections, the yellow warning time has been set at the legal minimum. At Third Street and F Street, the yellow is longer than the minimum, but almost all the tickets issued at the location are for turning right on red, which is less affected by yellow timing. The grand jury concluded that the program has not produced positive results.
"It appears that overall, statements by the city of Marysville officials to support effects of red light cameras on safety sometimes reference citywide collision figures and sometimes reference collision figures at red light camera intersections, use data that cannot be substantiated, provide conflicting figures, and omit reference to data that do not support the assertion of safety improvement," the report stated.
After reviewing the city's reports and statewide collision data, the grand jury pieced together the available information -- much of the early data have been "purged" -- to rate the city's safety claims as implausible.
"A review of the figure from the 2011 Marysville Police Department Annual Report shows a citywide steep decline in injury accident data from 2002 through 2005, prior to implementation of the red light camera program," the report stated. "In contrast, a citywide increase in injury accidents begins in 2005, the year the red light camera program began."
Marysville had asserted that injury accidents decreased 78.7 percent thanks to the use of cameras. The grand jury, to the contrary, found an increase in injury accidents.
The grand jury recommended that right-turn arrows be used in turn lanes to eliminate the need for right-turn photo tickets. It also recommended an increase in yellow signal times of one second, an idea mandated by law in both Ohio and Georgia. The report said that no further cameras should be installed without giving the public a full accounting of the collision data.
The report went on to question whether the "cost neutral" contract between Marysville and Redflex violates a state law prohibiting per-ticket compensation.
"Because the cost neutral clause stipulates that Redflex will receive less money if fewer citations are issued, this clause may be in violation of California Vehicle Code 21455.5," the report found.
The grand jury is a group of about two dozen individuals who serve for a year with both criminal trial duties and the ability to investigate county business.