California is giving motorists a break, or at least an extra bat of an eyelash.
Most red-light cameras have a yellow light timer set according to the posted
speed limit, but, according to some advocates, such a window is unrealistically
small. Traffic is often flowing faster than the posted speed limit, and
vehicles may go a tick or two faster when the signal is about to turn
yellow, in order to "beat the light." One particularly notorious
intersection is the corner of Wilshire and Whittier in Beverly Hills.
Under new regulations which take effect August 1, the yellow-light timer
would increase from 3.3 seconds to 3.9 seconds.
A small change drastically reduces violations. In Loma Linda, a one second
yellow-light increase led to a
92 percent reduction in citations.
A state senator from Cincinnati may have aptly summed up the red-light
camera saga when he observed that "cities took a kernel of a good
idea and put it on steroids and managed to anger a significant amount
of the population." Some people will argue that red-light cameras
are not bad things. Cameras create revenue for the state, allow departments to move some
officers from traffic patrol to other duties, and evenly enforce the law.
These are all laudable goals. That being said, the system in place in
Bakersfield must be changed.
One idea is to operate the cameras sporadically, as opposed to 24/7/365.
It's the same principle as the cherry-pickers in shopping mall parking
lots. There may or may not be an officer watching, but the mere possibility
is enough to alter some people's behavior. In a similar vein, human
traffic patrols should continue. Cameras are meant to supplement live
enforcement and not replace it. Finally, a public official, be it a police
officer or a clerk, should have the final say as to who gets a citation,
as opposed to a computer. The stated procedure of having an officer sign
off that there is probable cause is often a rubber stamp more than a thorough
review of the identity of the driver and whether a violation occurred.