Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The battle over the cameras that many California cities and counties use to nab motorists who blow through red lights or – more commonly – make rolling stops for right turns has raged in the Capitol for several years without resolution.

Critics of the cameras – which are installed and operated by private companies for shares of the resulting traffic fine revenues – say they are used primarily to generate income for local government coffers and serve little or no traffic safety purpose.

The critics found a friendly audience for their complaints in the Legislature. Two years ago, they finally won legislative approval of a bill that would have reduced fines for rolling red light turns caught on camera, overcoming stout opposition from lobbyists for local governments.

However, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected the measure, saying that someone who makes a rolling turn on a red light “makes a very dangerous traffic movement that endangers the nearby motoring public, bicyclists, and pedestrians” and that lowering fines “sends the wrong message to the public that California is tolerant of these types of offenses.”

The issue may be stalled in the Capitol, but red light cameras may go dark anyway, thanks to a new appellate court decision in Southern California.

While other courts have thrown out red light camera cases based on arguments of motorists that they were being convicted on hearsay testimony, the 2nd District Court of Appeal has provided legal heft for that contention with a published decision involving a motorist in Beverly Hills and Redflex Traffic System, the Arizona firm that is most aggressive in pitching cameras to local governments.

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