Voters in Murrieta tomorrow will decide whether red-light camera systems in place at three intersections—which advocates say have saved lives but critics counter are ineffective and unfair—should stay or go.
Measure N asks Murrieta residents whether the existing red-light cameras should be removed and the city council barred from installing additional ones in the future. The systems were first deployed in 2006.
"The unfortunate truth is that red light ticketing cameras can't improve safety because they cannot prevent the serious collisions caused by motorists who are impaired, distracted or fatigued and enter the intersection long after the light has turned red," according to a campaign statement from Measure N proponents. "More tickets, less safety."
The initiative backers, who include conservative activist Diana Serafin and Safer Streets L.A. Executive Director Jay Beeber, say a comparison of collision data from the five years before the city's red light cameras were installed to the five years after shows collisions overall jumped 120 percent, while rear-end collisions spiked a whopping 285 percent higher.
"And while the cameras increased accidents, by the time of this election, Murrieta will have issued almost 12,000 tickets at almost $500 each, removing millions of dollars from our local economy and wasting thousands of valuable police man hours," initiative backers wrote. "The vast majority of these tickets go to drivers who miss the end of the yellow phase by a fraction of a second."
Initiative opponents, including Councilmen Rick Gibbs and Alan Long, argue that Measure N's authors are spinning data to suit their purposes. Opponents wrote in a ballot statement that red-light running at camera-enforced intersections plummeted from 5,100 to 121 incidents from 2005 to 2011 and that half the people ticketed were three car lengths away from the intersection when the light changed and they chose to continue through it.
"Seventy-two percent of the red light violations were written to drivers who do not live in Murrieta," opponents said. "It is people passing through our town who put your life in danger."
The city of Los Angeles deactivated its red-light camera system last year based on doubts about its effectiveness as a deterrent and the fact that local courts wouldn't uphold the citations.
From 2004 to 2010, the city of Los Angeles issued 183,000 tickets, valued at more than $80 million. An audit of the automated traffic enforcement program, however, found no corresponding increase in safety at the intersections generating citations.