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May 16, 2011

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Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011
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SACRAMENTO – Legislation that protects the rights of drivers by regulating “red-light cameras” passed today on a bi-partisan unanimous vote of 36-0 in the State Senate. Senate Bill 29, by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), would establish statewide standards for the installation and operation of traffic enforcement cameras, and make it easier to challenge unjustified tickets.

“This bill is designed to make sure that people’s due process rights are protected as they work their way through the system,” said Simitian, “and to make sure that if somebody gets a ticket that they shouldn’t have, they have a way out of the system that’s relatively quick and convenient.”

The cameras increasingly are a subject of debate in cities around the state, as drivers question their accuracy and courts question the validity of the photographic evidence. While Simitian does not oppose red light cameras per se, “they raise issues of accuracy, privacy and due process,” he said. “I believe that traffic tickets should only be issued to improve public safety, not to raise revenue.”

Senate Bill 29 protects drivers’ rights by requiring that:

• Camera locations be chosen on safety considerations, and not on their potential to generate revenue.
• A traffic violation notice intended to identify the driver in an alleged violation – a so-called “snitch ticket” – must make clear that owners of vehicles allegedly involved are not required to incriminate themselves or anyone else who might have been driving the vehicle.
• Tickets explain how those receiving them can view the photographic evidence and discuss it by telephone or in person with the agency issuing the ticket.
• Tickets identify the company operating the camera and provide contact information for the agency issuing the ticket.
• A sign be posted within 200 feet of every intersection with a red light camera.

The legislation is a reintroduction of a bill Simitian authored last year that originated in his annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. San Jose resident Vera Gil suggested the legislation after receiving multiple tickets from red light cameras for a car in Southern California she does not own and has never driven.

Based on the difficulty she experienced challenging the tickets, Gil proposed a law requiring improved policies and procedures for “red light camera” citations.

“People who get tickets for someone else’s car need a way to straighten things out,” said Gil. “In my case, the license plate was one letter different than mine. I understand how that mistake happens, but it took weeks and weeks to clear-up. There was no information on who to call. I think that the cameras are helpful, but a ticket can be a real thorn in the side of the person who receives it mistakenly.”

“Discussion of the legislation over the past year,” Simitian said, “confirmed my initial suspicion that Gil’s case was just the tip of the iceberg.”  The issue comes up fairly frequently when Simitian hears from constituents.

To learn more about SB 29, visit