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Steve Lopez: Are you ticked off by a traffic ticket?


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-piHave you gotten a traffic ticket lately?

If so, did you choke when you saw the fee?

Traffic camera tickets, issued when you're caught on video running a red light, used to cost a few hundred dollars. But in the last couple of years, some are as high as $500-$600, says Steve Miller of Ticketbust.com, which tries to knock down the fees or get tickets dismissed altogether.

"Business is booming," said Miller, who told me that Californians are also ticked off about speeding ticket fines that run as high as several hundred dollars. "In the last two years, we've seen over a 100% increase in business each year."

Look, if someone's blowing red lights or barreling down a highway 90 miles an hour with a phone to the ear, I don't have much sympathy. But for questionable or relatively minor infractions, working folks are being hammered by fee increases imposed to fill budget gaps. Is it fair to charge someone half a month's rent, or the cost of a month's supply of food, for a slow-rolling turn as a light goes from yellow to red?

"They're dinging every single person then can," said Susan Novacoski, a registered nurse who opened her mail one day in November to find that she'd been hit with a $556 fee for allegedly running a red light in Loma Linda.

Novacoski didn't recall running a light, but didn't want to have to lose a day of work proving it. As a widow with a teenage daughter and a fulltime job at "a short-staffed hospital," she said, "I do not have a lot of time to play Perry Mason." She reluctantly decided to pay $219 to Ticketbust.com to handle the ticket, only to find a few days later that the ticket had been dismissed because of technical problems with the video camera ticketing system.

In fact, Loma Linda has since gotten rid of all its cameras because of complaints by citizens. Novacoski said that didn't do her any good. She's still out $219 for a violation she claims she didn't commit, and she struck out after wasting hours trying to get Loma Linda to cover that cost or at least give her an apology.

Do you have a horror story of your own?

If so, court is in session.

--Steve Lopez

Photo: An intersection in Costa Mesa. Credit: Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (60)

the city/county needs the money.

Steve, what tiks me off is posting a comment on this blog, checking it at 10:00 pm last night to see that it was not posted, then finally seeing that it and everybody else's was posted this morning. I had to click through two pages of stories before finally getting to your story. This is normal for LA NOW's blog and is very aggravating.

If you don't want to pay a big fine for a traffic ticket, the solution is simple: obey the traffic laws.

In my opinion, people who run red lights or "stop" after coasting all the way through a crosswalk to the point of blocking it completely, are a menace. People get killed from this behavior.

Cars are not toys and driving is not a video game. These laws exist to protect other motorists and people suicidal enough to try walking.

Keep the fines high, maybe it will teach some idiots a good lesson.

Aside from $$$, here's 2 reasons politicians OK the cameras:

1. They think we like the cameras!
There's Astroturf Lobbying by the camera Industry. (Google Rynski and Astroturf.) Their PR firms are manufacturing a fake grassroots movement via comments they post on news articles like this one. The politicians read the web, assume the pro-cam comments represent genuine public support, so they vote to install cameras.

2. Politicians - and their extended family - are immune to the tickets.
In California 1.5 million privately-owned cars have plates protected from easy look up, effectively invisible to agencies trying to process camera violations. The "protected" list includes politicians, bureaucrats, their families, and ADULT children! Unbelievable? Read Cal Veh Code 1808.4. If you think this is unfair, call your local state legislators and ask them to support AB 3 by Assemblyman Jeff Miller. (For comparison, the State of IL has only 5867 cars on its protected list, and TX has 18,323.)

and let us not forget the 15 City Council members, who each earn salaries of $178,789 per year, 400 percent of the median L.A. income, and drive free cars filled with free gas, made sure they are exempt from parking tickets.

I had always wanted to try a hot dog at Pinks in LA. With three signs to understand on the street, I fed the meter and missed the no parking after 4pm sign. I returned at 4:03pm needing to pay (on the spot) $200+ to the tow truck driver to lower my car (plus there was a $150 citation on the windshield). As the tow truck driver handled the $200 fee by reading my credit card numbers to his office, I watched the city parking enforcement move fast, which I am sure brings millions of much needed revenue. Unfortunately, the revenue to LA was one-time for me, as I won't be returning.

is there something more important to be ticked over and expose?
how about the negligence from our judicial system regarding the trafficking and pandering of children and underage youths in prostitution and child pornography groups.
sitting idly by and hoping the crims to have a conversion experience appears to be the MO of too many in law enforcement.

Victory & Sepulveda heading South. Approaching the intersection, I stop behind the cross walk, no cars making left turns on arrow, I proceed. The flash goes off! Doesn't if note that I did stop?!!!! No time to go to court. No extra money to pay an expensive ticket. No grace from the Insruance Company. How to prove I stopped? Do judges that your word as the truth any longer? Tired of having to pay left and right. What about ticketing the jerks on the freeway who cut you off or don't merge with traffic but drive ahead of everyone and cut off backing traffic up? What about ticketing people who cut you off without using a turn signal? So tired of driving in L.A.

Just a quick comment from a "visitor". I spent my Week-End in LA and seem that I got flashed on wilshire. The thing is when you discover those cameras (as a visitor) and when you discover the "cost" of the ticket, you start to sleep vey bad, especially wonder if your normal "driving behavior" (I am from Europe) maybe generated some other flash during the day that I did not see.
Here comes the nightmare where you are not local : any way to know if I will get a fine ? what is the cost (found many different information, from 200 to 900 $), since it is a rental car, how does it work (are they contacting me or just ignore this ticket - this is the case in europe).. etc.

What an "expensive" WE in LA ;-).

Maybe rental car companies should warn/inform their customers (visitors) because for sure, when you are not local, you are not aware of these flash/cost. And for an European visitor there are so many changes : lights on the other side, right turn on red, "if orange you get flashed"... Any pointers or advice ?

Have you seen the cops camped out at the southwest corner of La Brea and Clinton (just south of Melrose)? There is a new, poorly marked sign prohibiting right turns from eastbound Clinton onto La Brea. It is extremely confusing because it offers no explanation whatsoever as to why right turns are prohibited. For the last several days, there has been a cop car camped there, constantly writing tickets to raise city revenue and meet ticket quotas.

The unclear sign makes it a case of entrapment, but the cops are perfectly happy to write tickets. After all, it's far easier than actually trying to fight crime.

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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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