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Will More Time Mean Fewer Tickets?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 themselves 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.

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