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Should red light cameras be used to catch drivers on cellphones?

October 6, 2010 |  8:35 am

 Should red light cameras be used to catch drivers using cellphones?

6a00d8341c630a53ef013488024286970c-320wi Buried in a critical audit last week of Los Angeles’ photo enforcement program was some intriguing language about new ways police might use the ever-vigilant intersection cameras.

“LAPD also stated that the existing (program) equipment currently detects numerous other violations that impact driver safety and if cited would result in additional penalties and fees,” says the audit conducted by City Controller Wendy Greuel.

The program is intended to increase safety and decrease traffic deaths, the city says. But the audit noted the cameras cost more than $1 million a year to operate, partly because most of the $500 in fines and fees courts impose on red-light violators go primarily to the state and county.

Among violations being detected by the cameras, cellphone use is “extremely common” and failure to wear a seat belt is “very common,” the audit notes. Making improper turns from a lane is “fairly common.”

Other violations being observed: failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks; having earphones in both ears; reckless driving; speed contests; and expired registration.

State law would have to be changed to allow camera citations for violations other than running a red light. LAPD officials declined to comment, citing their current push to overhaul the program and seek bids for a new, multimillion-dollar contract next year.

The deal could include a major expansion of the program to additional intersections.

What do you think? Should red light cameras also be used to enforce texting and cellphone bans on the road? What about other traffic laws?

-- Rich Connell

Photo: A red light camera at the intersection of Garfield Ave and Via Campo in Montebello. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times