Are they near casino for safety or money?
Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/29/2010 09:49:31 PM PDT

It’s the letter no one wants: One informing a hapless driver that he or she was photographed running a red light at an intersection equipped with enforcement cameras.

The violation comes with a hefty fine of around $400 and more in traffic school fees if the driver wants to avoid a record that could auto insurance costs to rise.

The close proximity of two red-light camera-equipped intersections – one in Highland and one in San Bernardino – to San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino makes one local attorney wonder the cities picked the intersections in hopes they would be cash generators.

“It certainly is interesting that they’re so close together and along the route people use to come (in and out of) San Manuel,” said Lee Rittenburg of San Bernardino- based law office Traffic Defenders.

The intersections – Highland and Victoria avenues in Highland, and Highland and Arden avenues in San Bernardino – are separated by about a half-mile. Most out-of-town motorists cross them to get to the casino.

The cameras have been in operation at Highland and Arden for almost four years and about two years at Highland and Victoria.

Rittenburg doesn’t suggest the cities conspired to create a trap, but he does wonder if the sites were chosen for reasons other than reducing accidents.

“It seems like the placement of those are more for the generation of revenue than for public safety,” Rittenburg said.

San Bernardino has red-light cameras installed at seven intersections with four more under construction or planned in the future, according to the city’s website. San Bernardino Councilwoman Wendy McCammack says they were selected because of high accident statistics.

“The placement of a red-light camera belongs where there are the most accidents,” she said. “If a red-light camera saves one life it was worth the placement there.”

She scoffed at the notion that the cameras are making the city money. They
usually cost more to operate than they generate in fines, but the city isn’t losing money because its contract requires the service provider to eat the difference if fines don’t equal operating costs, she said.

San Bernardino Councilman Chas Kelley voted against expanding the cameras to additional intersections in 2008. If the city’s true intent were reducing accidents, cameras in the university district would have been installed at Kendall and Little Mountain drives, not at University Parkway and Kendall Drive, which Cal State San Bernardino students typically cross when driving to and from campus, he said.

Kelley said there are more accidents at Kendall and Little Mountain, while University and Kendall has a much higher volume of drivers so its likely more tickets will be issued. University and Kendall gets backed up during peak hours when student commuters leave class, he said.

“There’s no accidents out there. It’s a parking lot,” Kelley said.

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