Study shows success of red light cameras in Solana Beach


By Claire Harlin

Since the installation of red light cameras in 2004, collisions and violations in Solana Beach have diminished, according to a presentation to the City Council by local law enforcement authorities on Jan. 25.

At the request of City Manager David Ott, local law enforcement began a study on red light camera results about six months ago. Sheriff Deputy Greg McDonald compared data from 2004-2006 — the period following the installation of the cameras — to data from 2009-2011, and the analysis revealed a 60 percent decrease in traffic light violations. In the 24 months reviewed in the 2011 report, there were 358 collisions in Solana Beach — a 15 percent reduction from the 2006 report. There was also a 40 percent decrease in collision calls to authorities since the implementation of the camera program, according to McDonald.

“These cameras are working,” said Capt. Sherri Saro. “They are reducing collisions. Not to say they aren’t increasing tickets, because we still have violations that are occurring out there, but they are reducing collisions and that would contribute to saving lives and keeping injuries down.”

Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts and Councilman Tom Campbell, who serve on the city’s fiscal sustainability committee, met with the Sheriff’s Department recently to better understand the camera program, its methodologies and how the city gets paid.

“There’s no question in my mind that it’s a worthwhile program,” Campbell said.

Roberts said there has been some confusion about the billings as they are received from the court in regard to the program.

“The court text (or billing) we get is all over the board and it makes absolutely no sense,” Roberts said. “They can’t document why they sent us $13,000 one month, why they charged us a one-time fee one month … There’s no rhyme or reason to it and we are just trying to find out better from a fiscal sustainability standpoint what is behind this.”

Ott said he is working with staff to get some better answers.

He also reminded the community and council that the private contractors who provide the cameras don’t issue the tickets; the Sheriff’s authorities issue the tickets. He reiterated that every violation is documented on video, with both the driver and vehicle clearly identifiable. Saro also said authorities can clearly see if a driver is holding a cell phone to his or her ear.

“Cell phones are one of the biggest contributors to accidents,” she said, adding that there will be extra added cell phone enforcement in upcoming months. Any cell phone use that is not entirely hands-free is subject to enforcement.