The People Prevail in Los Angeles

By Gary Biller, NMA Executive Director

For years, Los Angeles commuters have been hit with red-light camera tickets costing almost $500. Close to 80 percent of those tickets were issued for simple rolling right turns that motorists execute millions of times daily across the country without incident.

And yet, even with that hefty ticket price and the thousands of photo tickets issued annually by the city, the Los Angeles red-light camera program has been losing $1 to $1.5 million annually.

Can there be anything more galling than being forced to “invest” in a program that is destined to continue losing money? That has been the fate of the Los Angeles motorist. Until now, that is.

For the past several weeks, the Los Angeles City Council has been debating whether to override a unanimous decision by the city’s Police Commission to let the camera contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) expire without renewal on July 31, 2011.

The Commission reviewed the Controller’s audit and heard hours of testimony from advocates like Jay Beeber, executive director of Safer Streets LA. With the support of the NMA, Jay Beeber provided evidence that disproved the claimed benefits of red-light cameras and offered more effective ways to improve intersection safety.

Despite furious lobbying by ATS and other pro-camera forces, the Los Angeles City Council joined the Police Commission by voting unanimously to take down the red-light cameras after July 31st. A nice summary of the decision is provided by

The pro-camera lobby is beside themselves.

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR), which is a front group for the aforementioned American Traffic Solutions, issued a press release condemning the demise of red-light cameras in Los Angeles and chastising the Police Commission for putting “money before safety in its vote to end the city’s successful red-light safety program.” (Perhaps as a nod to the perceived power of subliminal messages, almost every statement from ATS and NCSR is now sprinkled liberally with the phrases “red-light safety cameras” and “life-saving devices.”)

“Money before safety?” Beeber, the NMA, and others have shown demonstrably that there are several methods of improving intersection safety that cannot be matched by photo enforcement. The elimination of Los Angeles’ red-light cameras signifies the loss of a five-year, $15 million contract by ATS. Who exactly is putting money first?

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