New 6-15-10, updated 8-7-10:
2010: California Assembly Bill 909 -
Reducing the Fine for Rolling Right Turns (Oppose in Present Form)
"All that is necessary for
the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Edmund Burke 1729 - 1797
(Hill) has been touted as cutting the fine for a rolling right turn to
about half of what it
is now. Also, prior to a June 14 amendment, the bill would
revised the law to allow a motorist to turn right without having to
stop, so long as he or she did not interfere with a pedestrian's or
another motorist's right-of-way.
[Late note: On Sept. 29, AB 909 was
vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.]
The bill tries to accomplish the fine
reclassifying a rolling right turn as a violation of CVC 21453(b),
instead of the present 21453(a). The (b) violation, not
presently used for camera tickets, never had its fine increased to $100
(a) and (c) did.
The Present Law, and
How I Think It Works
CVC 21453 has three
subsections applicable to motorists.
driver facing a steady circular red
signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before
entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if
none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped
until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in
( This subsection is the one presently used for all straight-thru
violations, and most rolling right turns. The "base" fine -
- for (a) is $100.)
"(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a
driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady
circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street
onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the
right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and
to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to
constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to
yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed
with reasonable safety."
(The base fine for (b) is $35.)
"(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not
enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and,
unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by
another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none,
before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or
if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain
stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown."
(The base fine for (c) is $100, and this subsection is
the one presently used for left turn violations and those few right
turns that are controlled by a red arrow.)
How It Works
I believe that
the present version of 21453(b) was written to be used where a
motorist makes a full stop on the red - so he has not violated
(a) - but then he makes a right turn and blocks a pedestrian or gets in
the way of a motorist coming from the left who has the right-of-way
(ROW) because his signal is green.
How It Got This Way
Mr. Hill has written that the 1997
fine increase was supposed to apply
just to straight-thru violations, and that its application to right
turns was inadvertent. That needs a little clarification. In 1997,
there wasn't yet a minimum length for the yellows, so the cities were
able to use short yellows to write lots of straight-thru tickets.
And, due to technical limitations (red light cameras did not shoot
video yet), there was no ticketing for rolling
in 2001, CVC 21455.7 was enacted and it set minimum yellows and made
many cities lengthen theirs - and ticketing dropped way off - and so
did income. Then, technology stepped in to save the day. Computer
memory and video cameras both were getting cheaper, and better. The
camera companies added video to their camera systems, and voila, they
were able to start citing for right turns. (Without video, it is
difficult to prove a right turn violation.)
There's been five
bill, so far.
The May 27 Version
Before May 27, 2010, AB 909 was about a totally different subject (the
Code), and the bill was going nowhere. Then on May 27 Assemblyman
Hill "gutted and amended" it; he removed all the Election Code
language, and changed the subject to traffic fines. The May 27
language moved rolling right turns to Subsection (b) - which has a much
lower base fine. But more significantly, the May 27 version of
would have removed the
requirement to make a full stop
(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver,
after stopping as required by subdivision (a),
facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left
from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that
turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an
adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is
approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the
driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle
until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.
CVC 21453(b), as proposed in May 27 Version of AB 909 (Portion)
Subsection (b) of the May 27 version
made it a violation only if the
driver fails to yield the right-of way!
This proposed change brought immediate and heavy opposition, and I
heard that an amendment was in the works, so on June 3 I wrote:
The June 14 Version
|June 3, 2010
To the Office of Assemblymember Jerry Hill
I could have supported the May 27 version of AB 909, as
it would have made rolling right tickets go only to the few motorists
who have been
shown to have violated the right-of-way of another motorist, a
bicyclist, or a pedestrian - thus justifying the still-heavy (approx.)
fine the bill proposes. But I cannot support a version which
fine but does not address the severity of the violation - thus the
quantity of tickets - because even a $250 fine, plus the accompanying
"point" on one's
DMV record, is too heavy a punishment for the typical rolling right
violation. For sake of comparison, I
would mention that New York City
charges $50, and no point, for the same violation.
A further disadvantage of a bill that does not address
the quantity of rolling right tickets is that it does nothing about
congestion. In your district, the court system is collapsing in upon
because the cities are pumping out an (est.) 6000 red light camera
month - most of which are for rolling right turns. It's gotten so bad
you want to see a judge about your ticket (maybe to ask for a reduction
$500 fine, or for a payment plan), you have to line up outside the
building in the wee hours of the morning, just to get a seat in the
The southern end of Alameda County
has the same problem.
Even though I cannot support a
of AB 909, I understand that you will probably move ahead with such a
version, and would like to suggest that any fine reduction also be
left turns. I suggest this because we
already have some cities (Corona
and Santa Clarita) which have focused their cameras almost exclusively
turn lanes, and it is reasonable to expect that if rolling right
less profitable, other cities will begin to emphasize left-turn
Clarita's data, available at http://highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsdocsSantaClaritaMain.html
, shows that for the first quarter of 2010, 95.6% of violations
recorded there were
If for any reason you
are not able
to reduce the fines
for left turns, an alternative would be to provide that for a
turn, the length of the yellow be increased from the present minimum of
up to 4.0 seconds. A one-second increase
has the effect of reducing violations by approx. 2/3, and the effect
would be permanent -
there is no "rebound" over time, even after the passage of several
years. Your district contains an example of the public being
a 3.0[*] second left-turn yellow. At the left turn from Bayfront
Willow [coming off the Dumbarton Bridge] the attached official signal timing chart
says that the yellow
for the left turn is 3.0 while the yellow for the through movement is
5.0. That disparity, combined with the high speeds possible in
very long left turn pocket, generates approx. 100 tickets per month.
But if we look at the "bar charts" for that intersection (available at http://highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsdocsMenloParkMain.html
), we can
see that if the yellow had been increased by one second, there would
have (using January 2010 as the example) no more than 13
In other words, a one second longer yellow there would decrease
violations by approx. 90%. Or, conversely,
present too-short yellow means that ten-times too many people are
getting tickets. (For further
left turn enforcement, and to see an example of the aforementioned 2/3
reduction with no rebound, see "Defect # 9 - C at http://highwayrobbery.net/indexExpanded.htm#Def9
Thank you for giving these thoughts
[*Late note: On July 2, 2010, CalTrans increased the yellow for
Bayfront/Willow left turn to 3.5 seconds. The extra half second
reduced the number of tickets by 90%. See the Menlo Park
Documents page - linked above - to see the actual number of tickets,
The anticipated amendment was made on June 14. The "after
was put back in.
The June 16 Version
The bill was amended again - after just two days - on June
the June 14 version included language limiting the right turn (base)
(b) Every person convicted of... right turn
violations shall be punished by a fine of thirty-five dollars ($35)
the June 16 version seems to allow the fine to float upward...
(b) Every person convicted... shall
be punished by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars($100).
A reasonable conclusion would be that the only reason for the
change in the
language is that the legislature anticipates raising the fine!
But even if the proposed base fine of $35 is not raised, the total fine
is going up. There is the $40 statewide
surcharge proposed as part of the current budget, and there is a new
surcharge which went into effect on
June 10, 2010.
This new surcharge, enacted by
Executive Session Bill ACX8-3, is $7 on a $35 base fine, and $20 on a
$100 base fine.
The July 15 and August 3 Versions
As of Aug. 3, the bill seems to have stabilized:
It appears that a rolling right turn will be a violation of 21453(b),
and that the fine will be whatever is specified in the general schedule
of traffic fines, which presently sets a $35 base fine but could be
amended at any time.
[Late note: On Sept. 29, AB 909 was vetoed by Governor
More Details / Early History
Mar. 16, 2010 Assemblymember Jerry Hill (D - San Mateo) made a request
Legislative Analyst to study red light cameras. He asked most
of the right questions, such as: "Is the amount charged... appropriate
for the crime committed?" and "Should red light cameras be used to
issue right turn on red tickets?"
Hill received the analyst's report
On May 27 the first version of AB 909 was published.
There was formal opposition
even before it was published, and more
after it was published, from the California Police Chief's Association,
whose president is the chief from San Mateo.
The idea for AB 909 may have come from the City of Los Angeles, which
until Aug. 2008 cited its rolling right violations under 21453(b),
which resulted in a total fine of $159. For more details, see Set
# 2 on the City of LA Docs page.
For more info about rolling right turns, see the expanded version of
Defect # 9.
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