More yellow caused Santa Clarita officials to see red, which led the city
to remove its red-light cameras. Could Bakersfield learn from Santa Clarita's
experiment on red light cameras?
After a presentation from a local resident and a safety advocate, the city
agreed to an experiment. The yellow light remained at 3.5 seconds at some
intersections, while at others, the yellow light stayed on for either
4.0 or 4.5 seconds. The results were almost
staggering. A 0.5 second increase reduced red-light camera violations by 58 percent;
a 1.0 increase triggered a 71 percent reduction. Almost overnight, the
red-light cameras went from a cash cow generating $5 million a year in
revenue to a $121,834 net loss.
The City Council voted 3-2 to remove the cameras. Many officials are so
pleased with the experiment's results that they may lengthen the yellow
lights to 4.9 seconds.
In many cases, there are three
very good legal defenses and a convincing equitable defense that can be used in front of a Bakersfield judge.
Many cities time their yellow lights according to the speed limit, as opposed
to the average speed, so the yellow light may be a few tenths or one-hundredths
of a second too short. This defect can invalidate the ticket, especially
if you passed under the signal just as the light turned red. Other times,
when stopping at a red light prior to a right-hand turn, especially in
certain traffic conditions, a vehicle may stop so briefly that the camera
fails to detect it. Nonetheless, the vehicle has made a legal stop, in
most circumstances. Finally, the cameras, or the sign announcing that
cameras are present, may be obscured.
There are other issues relating to the quality of the picture of the driver,
if there were other factors that made running the red light the safest
thing to do, that can often lead to a successful defense.