Drivers may get a small break for "California stop"

May 28, 2010 11:46:20 PM PDT
Drivers often don't come to a complete stop at a stop sign or on a right hand turn, which is a maneuver that has been coined a "California stop." While that move is not completely legal, there is a push to give drivers a break if a red light camera catches them doing it.

A lot of people will love this proposed legislation, especially those who believe it is not fair to be treated the same, whether a driver drives straight through a red light or if you sort of make a stop as a driver turns to the right.

Annalyn Chacon was caught on camera twice making a California stop. In other words, she made a rolling stop as she made a right on a red light. Her two tickets were very expensive -- almost $900.

Richard Ault was fined $500 for making the same California stop.

"I know it's a big revenue line for the city, but it doesn't seem responsible," said Ault.

In fact, the vast majority of those tagged by the red light cameras are making those right turns.

"In South San Francisco, 98 percent of the red light violations are for illegal right turns on red," said Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

Hill says he has heard enough constituents who say it is not fair to slap those violators with the same big fine as those who actually run straight through a red light. So, Hill has introduced legislation that would reduce the fine for those making illegal right turns from $450 to $250.

"I can certainly see some merit to his argument," said Burlingame Police Sgt. Don Shepley.

Sgt. Shepley says about 85 percent of his city's red light camera violators make illegal right turns. Hill even has the support of John Fitton, the CEO of the San Mateo County Superior Court.

"Somebody paying close to $600 for what may or may not be a full stop at a red light for a right hand turn, that's questionable," said Fitton.

Fitton is also happy that the legislature is now considering another bill that would charge the camera companies a fee which would go directly to the courts to help defray processing costs for the citations.

Fitton says camera violations are overwhelming a court staff already decimated by the state budget cuts.

"Our workforce is down by about 20 percent and our workload due to this issue has increased over 30 percent," said Fitton.

Of course, there is a flipside. If there is legislation that reduces fines for the illegal right turns passes, that means cities with cameras will lose money.

In Burlingame, some right light cameras will be shut down in three days because they can't make enough money for the city to maintain these cameras. Red light cameras are not only for safety, they're to bring in revenue.


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