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Smile for the camera! Unfortunately, I am referring to a very unwanted photographer -- the dreaded red light camera that captures drivers crossing the line only to find a sizeable ticket with their picture attached weeks later in their mailbox. Red light cameras are an increasingly popular form of enforcement, especially in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. The cameras, which cost over $1 million a year to keep in operation, often carry tickets over $500 for violators.
The LA Times now reports that the intersection cameras may be put to work for more than just red light violations. The Times quotes City Controller Wendy Greuel: "The existing program equipment currently detects numerous other violations that impact driver safety and if cited would result in additional penalties and fines."
Other violations include: talking on a cellphone, not wearing a seat belt, not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, reckless driving, and expired registration. All those violations could now be tacked onto the already expensive red light ticket if California state law changes to include the expansion of the red light citation program. Obviously running a red light is a serious traffic violation because of the high crash potential. But photographing a driver texting and talking on the phone, though illegal, makes law enforcement a much more big brother type approach, and would not be without controversy and public concerns if approved.
The utility of a red light camera is not without its problems. Although red light cameras help to reduce drivers crossing the intersection, their known presence on a given street corner also causes drivers to engage in equally dangerous behavior by slamming on their brakes and swerving to avoid a ticket, but maybe not an accident. Putting safety first, the inclusion of other citations with a red light camera ticket in Los Angeles would not only generate substantial revenue for the city, but hopefully have a deterrent effect on behavior beyond running red lights, at least that is what city officials in favor of expanding the program are saying.