San Diego Wants to Adjust Cameras to Issue More Tickets
San Diego, California will shorten grace periods to make more money from red light cameras that have increased accidents in the city.

Mayor Jerry SandersSince they were first installed in 1998 red light cameras in San Diego have never reduced accidents, but they have generated millions for the city -- $16,279,772 until a Superior Court declared the program illegal in 2001. The city recently restarted ticketing, but officials are not satisfied with the amount of money they have been raising. In response, Mayor Jerry Sanders is now proposing either to drop the program entirely or adjust camera settings to trap more motorists at stoplights.

Mayor Sanders told KGTV television that he wants to reduce the amount of time allowed after a light changes from yellow to red before a ticket is issued. This "grace time," according to a 2002 audit, ranged from 0.3 to 0.5 seconds in San Diego. Sanders proposes to drop it to a lightning-quick 0.1 seconds to issue even more citations and bolster the program's income.

"We see about a 9 percent decrease for red light runners," Sanders said. "Most cities using it more widely with a 0.1-second delay actually see up to a 40 percent decrease."

In 2000, motorists caught San Diego using illegally short yellow times at intersections that had red light cameras. Court action forced the city quietly to increase the yellow time at a number of intersections with the number of violations instantly dropping. At Mission Bay and Grand Avenue, for example, violations dropped from a rate of 363.4 per 100 enforcement hours to an average of 42.2 the day after the yellow was lengthened.

Court documents from 2001 proved that, excluding the intersections with increased yellow time, every red light camera intersection in the city had an increase in accidents, or saw no benefit. San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano confirmed this in an interview on Nightline: "And it's true in a few intersections we found a few more accidents than prior to the red light photo enforcement. At some intersections we saw no change at all, and at several intersections we actually saw an increase in traffic accidents." Accidents have also not dropped under the current red light program.

Source: Will Red Light Cameras Stop Snapping? (KGTV-TV (CA), 4/21/2006)