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Red-light camera regulation bill moves forward

A bill to regulate “red-light cameras” – including provisions to make it easier to challenge unjustified traffic tickets – passed the state Senate today on a unanimous 36-0 vote; it now goes to the Assembly.

SB 29 by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would require that camera locations be chosen on safety considerations, and not on their potential to generate revenue; a traffic violation notice intended to identify the driver in an alleged violation – a so-called “snitch ticket” – must make clear that owners of vehicles allegedly involved are not required to incriminate themselves or anyone else who might have been driving the vehicle; tickets explain how those receiving them can view the photographic evidence and discuss it by telephone or in person with the agency issuing the ticket; tickets identify the company operating the camera and provide contact information for the agency issuing the ticket; and a sign be posted within 200 feet of every intersection with a red light camera.

simitian.jpg“This bill is designed to make sure that people’s due process rights are protected as they work their way through the system, and to make sure that if somebody gets a ticket that they shouldn’t have, they have a way out of the system that’s relatively quick and convenient,” Simitian said in a news release.

Drivers across the state have questioned the cameras’ accuracy, and courts have questioned the validity of evidence they produce. Simitian said he’s not against the cameras entirely, “they raise issues of accuracy, privacy and due process. I believe that traffic tickets should only be issued to improve public safety, not to raise revenue.”

Simitian had authored a similar bill last year born of his annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest; San Jose resident Vera Gil proposed it after getting multiple tickets from red light cameras for a car in Southern California she does not own and has never driven.

“People who get tickets for someone else’s car need a way to straighten things out,” Gil said in Simitian’s news release. “In my case, the license plate was one letter different than mine. I understand how that mistake happens, but it took weeks and weeks to clear-up. There was no information on who to call. I think that the cameras are helpful, but a ticket can be a real thorn in the side of the person who receives it mistakenly.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.