California: Grand Jury Slams City for Short Yellows
Ventura, California red light camera produces $1.5 million in tickets by trapping drivers with a short yellow.

The Ventura County, California Grand Jury on Monday slammed the city of Ventura for using short yellows to trap motorists at an intersection where a red light camera snaps $1.5 million worth of tickets each year. Of the city's eighteen automated ticketing machines, only the one located at the intersection of California Street and Thompson Boulevard consistently tops the charts.

In just three months at the location, the camera operated by Australia's Redflex Traffic Systems issued 825 tickets worth $435 each, or a total of 9.3 tickets per day. Another camera located at Mills Road and Main Street only issued 49 tickets over the same period. When taking traffic volumes into account, that means the California and Thompson camera issued citations at a rate one hundred times greater than Mills and Main (9.3 tickets per 10,000 passing vehicles compared to a rate of 0.09).

The grand jury found that California and Thompson just happened to have the shortest yellow time of any intersection in the city, although the three seconds given to drivers meets the absolute minimum allowed by state and federal law.

"California Street has three traffic signal-controlled intersections," the report stated. "The grand jury observed that the yellow light interval at the north and south approaches to California and Thompson had the shortest duration, one full second shorter than other yellow light intervals at intersections on the same street having the same posted speed limit."

The grand jury is a group of about two dozen individuals who serve for a year with both criminal trial duties and the ability to investigate county business. When they do so, they "may ask for support and advice from superior court, district attorney's office, county counsel or outside consultants." In this case, the jurors interviewed police officials from Ventura and Oxnard who handle inquiries regarding the photo ticketing program run by Redflex. The jurors were also escorted to red light camera locations.

The grand jury report accepted selective and partial sets of data that police claimed showed accident reductions. It also cited the 2001 insurance industry report on red light cameras in Oxnard that has been discredited by the Weekly Standard and the University of South Florida. Based on the Oxnard claims, the grand jury endorsed the continued use of cameras as long as yellow times are increased.

"The grand jury also recommends that Oxnard and Ventura investigate traffic engineering measures, in addition to the installation of 'red light cameras' to address the safety concerns of red light running."

A copy of the report is available in a 360k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Cars on Camera: Red Light Camera Enforcement (Ventura County, California Grand Jury, 6/24/2009)

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