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Opinion: Ending red-light camera program is ‘nuts’

And the winner of the inaugural “NUTS” award is …

There are many types of awards floating around, so why not create another one.  I took the name from comments made by Councilman Kranz at the Encinitas City Council meeting on May 6, which ended the red-light camera program.

The clear winner is Councilman Mosca. Using faulty and pathetic logic, he managed to convince Mayor Blakespear and Councilwoman Hubbard to vote for the cancellation and it passed by a 3-2 vote. Council members Kranz and Hinze voted against.

The cameras are the most effective way to discourage red-light running. It is cost-prohibitive to have sheriff’s deputies enforce red-light running violations. It presents a danger to them and that is why we use technology.

The cameras work 24/7, 365 days a year, in any weather. They don’t require vacation or sick pay.

A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) found that cameras reduced the fatal red- light running crash rate at a substantial rate. IIHS studies also show that after cameras were removed, the number of accidents caused by red-light running increased.

I quote our award winner: “City officials have been debating for years whether to keep the cameras.

“Encinitas should have pulled the plug long ago when it became evident that the cameras provide limited accident-prevention benefit. Nothing has changed, and hundreds of people are still getting these ridiculous fines of $490 and court-set cost.”

This last statement is curious at best, since Mr. Mosca seems to have forgotten once again that the fine for a red-light violation ticket issued by a deputy is the same amount as the camera violation ticket.

He goes on to say: “Most of the tickets aren’t going to the people who drive straight through the intersection when the light turns red.

“Instead the cameras typically catch drivers who either fail to come to a complete stop making the right turn on a red light, or drivers who try to scoot through an intersection in a left-turn lane when the arrow is going from yellow to red.”

Now the questionable advice: “Instead of ticketing people, we ought to increase yellow clearances.”

I guess it is beyond Mr. Mosca’s apprehension that long yellows will give waiting motorists the impression that the signal is stuck and start entering the intersection on red, while other drivers will continue to enter the intersection on yellow (A politician does not make much of a traffic engineer).

Now, Councilman Kranz: “The argument that Joe just made is pretty nuts. People who receive left-turn tickets know full well that the yellow is about to end as they drive up to the intersection and say to themselves, ‘I can beat the red light.’ Increasing the length of the yellow won’t end that behavior.

“They need to realize that failing to come to a complete stop when turning right puts pedestrian in crosswalks at risk of injury.”

I applaud Councilman Kranz for his logic and his steadfast support for the program.

Councilman Mosca seems to have forgotten that the simplest way to avoid a ticket is to obey the various traffic laws and that applies to everyone — economically challenged or well-off.

I am sure that there are a number of people who are ecstatic about the council’s vote, yet do not have the wherewithal to look at the bigger picture. It seems that Mayor Blakespear and Councilwoman Hubbard need to be included in that group.

City Council has charged the Traffic and Public Safety Commission with implementing VISION ZERO, designed to eliminate all traffic fatalities, regardless of cause. The implementation requires three major items: good intersection design, proper control equipment and enforcement.

The latter has been severely crippled by eliminating the red-light enforcement cameras.

In late 2019, the commission, in its continuing efforts to achieve VISION ZERO, voted unanimously to continue the camera contract. Oh well, one step forward, two steps back.

Peter Kohl is the Olivenhain representative on the Encinitas Traffic and Public Safety Commission


Brian Ceccarelli May 21, 2020 at 5:58 pm

On March 2, 2020, the Institute of Transportation Engineers confessed that its yellow light practice makes everyone run red lights. CalTrans uses this practice. Over 90% of all red-light runners and crashes are caused by ITE making egregious mistakes in a math equation, and for doing it for 55 years. Our need to slam on the brakes, beat the light or consign ourselves to run a red, especially when making turns, are the outcomes of this faulty equation. You read about it yourself in the March 2020 ITE Journal.

The people getting those tickets are people who traffic engineers force to run red lights. It is not bad drivers, it is bad traffic engineers. The traffic engineer violates the California Engineering Practice Statue. That is a crime. The red-light camera firms know all about these mistakes. And the senior engineer for IIHS was Richard Retting, the father of the red-light camera in America. He is not engineer at all. IIHS raised your premiums when you run a red light . . . even when you run the red by under 0.4 seconds–the blink of an eye.

The reason why there is no change in crash rate is because red-light cameras punish the wrong party–drivers.

Lisa Shaffer May 21, 2020 at 8:17 am

I don’t often agree with Peter Kohl. but on this one I do. The only people getting those tickets (the dollar amount set by the state, not the city) are people who run the light and endanger others. Cameras don’t cause accidents – bad risky drivers do. And they should be ticketed. Enforcement by motorcycle officers is more dangerous than cameras. I’m disappointed by the Council majority’s decision.

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