We are pleased that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will reform the use of red-light cameras by local governments in the state. The changes will create statewide standards for the operation of red-light cameras, and will give motorists a better chance of challenging unjustified tickets.
Red-light cameras in many cities have been set up solely to raise money and had little to do with safety. Because local governments were chasing ticket revenue, they established procedures making it very difficult to challenge questionable tickets. They also made the red-light cameras tickets much more costly than other violations.
The law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, will require that the cameras be installed as a traffic safety measure and not a revenue-collection device. That means the placement of cameras must be based on evidence that they will make an intersection safer.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, previously had tried to get the reforms passed. He was successful this year, with the signing his bill Friday.
Simitian sought the changes after hearing about the case of a San Jose resident, Vera Gil, who received several tickets from red-light cameras for a car in Southern California that she didn't own and had never driven. It was almost impossible for her to challenge the tickets because of all the hoops that she had to jump through to clear her driving record.
After investigating her case, Simitian found that Gil's "experience was just the tip of the iceberg," and that reforms were needed statewide.
"Red-light cameras can be an important public safety tool, but they shouldn't be abused," Simitian said in a statement. "This bill will establish important ground rules, ensure that if drivers get a ticket that they shouldn't have, they can contest the ticket easily. It will put driver safety, rather than the revenue, first."
We applaud the important changes made in this reform bill.