Corona Becomes Latest City to Ditch Red Light Cameras

It was a program that the Corona police wanted to see rolled out across the city; red light cameras recording and penalizing every driver that jumped a red traffic signal at the city's main intersections. However, this ambitious - and highly controversial - the program is fast losing support from both the city council and the general public. As a result of a widespread loss of support, as well as its argued ineffectiveness, it has built up a huge deficit, which is on course to result in the extension plans being scrapped.

Strong Opposition

Corona residents have long been opposed to the plans, complaining that the cameras - which use photo and video systems to capture vehicles driving through red lights - are costing too much money and are actually causing increasing numbers of rear-end collisions.

Corona's authorities last week conducted a study session to address the impact of the cameras. However, this session failed to gain the support needed from the city leaders to renew the program.

The police department originally wanted to extend the cameras to additional important intersections throughout the city. They argued that the cameras are reducing crashes and are promoting safer driving. They wanted to follow plans by a nearby city, San Bernardino, which recently voted to add red-light cameras to three more of its major intersections.

Cities Removing Red Light Cameras

However, other cities have voted to remove their own red-light cameras after they were proven to be ineffective and unpopular. The decisions by nearby cities, Moreno Valley and Loma Linda, to end their respective programs have convinced Corona's council that it should follow suit. The two neighboring cities faced a devastating deficit of $611,000 from their red light camera programs this year, which led Corona's officials to a 3-2 vote against their own program. Those against the camera plans said that they weren't as effective or as fair as first thought. Although those in favor of the plans continued to argue that collisions were being reduced as a result of the cameras and that people were driving more safely.

The proof is in the figures

It is clear that both sides can't be right here. The proof therefore must be in the statistics. Since the introduction of the program in May 2009, there has been a 17 percent decrease in collisions in Corona at intersections with traffic signals. However, overall collisions during the same period increased by 6 percent, while accidents at intersections increased by 12 percent. A report on road safety in the city also showed that traffic accidents were on a downward trend between 2006 and 2008. However, road collisions started to increase again from 2010 onwards, suggesting that the cameras were a contributing factor.

Decreased Revenue & Increased Costs

What about the revenue? The red light camera program has endured a damaging 34 percent decrease in revenue, as well as a crippling 15 percent increase in cost since its introduction over three years ago. During its first year, the city of Corona made a respectable $357,218 in revenue. However, this dropped drastically to just $54,767 by 2011.

Meanwhile, the cost of the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems costs around $30,000 per month to maintain. In times of prolonged economic hardship, residents and authorities alike are arguing that this money could be much better spent elsewhere. Residents argue that it is already difficult to finance cars, complaining that the overall cost of ownership is increasing thanks to rising fuel duty and imposing taxes. Councilman, Steve Nolan, who has become a voice for the campaign against the camera program, said: “So many things about this program have been deceptive since day one.”

Councilwoman, Karen Spiegel, also spoke against the police department's plans to add red-light cameras to three more intersections: “I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do. I’m not seeing [the] success rate citywide.”

Those looking for guaranteed car loans or finance on new vehicles may be pleased by this apparent cancellation of the red light camera program; insurance and loan companies have been known to increase costs thanks to drivers' records with driving and road fines. The abolition of red light cameras in Corona could help in some small way to reduce the cost of ownership of a car.

Final Decision

A final decision on the camera contract, which is currently being carried out by Redflex Traffic Systems, is expected at the next City Council meeting on September 4. Whatever the outcome, however, city residents are being warned that tickets received before the November 5 expiration date are still valid.