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Message in Support of SB780
by President
of the
California Peace Officers' Association
(Sponsors of the Bill)

(This undated 'President's Message' was found on May 21, 2003 on the website of the California Peace Officer's Association. 
Note the reference to the former fine amount of $200 - now $341, and the non-standard sign they used to illustrate the article.)

President's Message

The Power of Photo Enforcement

By Lou Blanas
Lou Blanas is the sheriff of Sacramento County. If you would like to share your thoughts on any of the issues in this column, you can reach President Blanas at cpoa @

"In our world of new law enforcement responsibilities amidst dwindling budgets, red light camera enforcement serves as a force multiplier. It compounds the effects of traditional enforcement by giving law enforcement flexibility to assign officers to other critical areas. Twenty-seven California jurisdictions currently use this technology, and the California Peace Officers’ Association is sponsoring SB 780, a bill by Senator Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), that will enhance the effectiveness of photo red light enforcement programs."

"According to the California Highway Patrol, there were 26,181 collisions caused by red light law violations in 2001, causing 15,537 injuries and 113 fatalities. Red light running deaths are increasing three times faster than any other roadway fatality cause and each death costs society $2.6 million. Although traditional law enforcement techniques of observation, chase, and citation are effective in apprehending a single driver, they are not the most efficient use of law enforcement resources, especially post-9/11 when law enforcement faces demands than ever before. Additionally, because photo enforcement is effective in changing driver behavior and reducing traffic collisions, both fire and police personnel face reduced demand for collision scene mitigation. Red light photo enforcement has a proven track record in deterring motorists from running red lights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) notes red light camera enforcement has resulted in a decrease in violations and crashes that extends beyond monitored intersections into unmonitored intersections."

"As the sheriff of Sacramento County and current president of CPOA, I strongly support red light camera enforcement. It has been very effective in Sacramento County. In the last six months alone, we have realized an average monthly reduction of 34% in red light running violations from the previous year and an average 27% decrease in crashes at each red light camera intersection. These statistics are similar to other cities and counties that use this technology. Last year, the independent California state auditor examined red light running and photo enforcement. The audit concluded that red light cameras have reduced red light running and also recommended operational improvements to ensure more effective program control and compliance with state law."

"SB 780 implements many of the state auditor’s recommendations as well as provisions in the model law by The National Committee on Uniform Laws and Traffic Ordinances (NCUTLO). The legislation enhances local control over red light photo enforcement programs and increases program effectiveness by providing for:

* Owner liability
* Rear cameras instead of front cameras
* A flat fee structure
* State-controlled site selection
* Strong government oversight and control of programs
* A $200 fine limit
* Civil violations
* No points assessments on driver licenses
* An administrative adjudication process"

"These changes, especially owner liability, are far more effective in enforcing red light running violations and changing driver behavior. California currently holds drivers liable for red light running citations, yet driver liability requires a difficult identification process and a loss in citations. Only 23% of red light running violations were enforced according to last year’s audit findings."

"SB 780 requires replacing front cameras which take photos of the front of the and the driver with a rear camera that captures the car, the limit line and the red signal. That way, motorists’ privacy concerns will go away along with any doubt that the car in question was going through the intersection on red. The cop in each of us would like to catch and prosecute personally every red light running violation. The reality of traditional enforcement is that it is impossible at high volume, major intersections. Owner liability simply lets us capture and prosecute more violations. This force multiplier effect results in a greater deterrence level, fewer violations and crashes and more lives saved. The majority of cities with photo enforcement use owner liability and capture more violations. Research shows consistent enforcement is a more effective deterrent than severity of punishment. The goal of red light cameras is to change driver behavior. Owner liability accomplishes that goal more fully without a decrease in safety benefits."

"Enactment of S.B. 780 translates into greater public safety benefits. I hope you will contact your legislator and urge support of this important legislation."

End of Sheriff Blanas' message.