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Cash-strapped California increasing traffic fines again

December 30, 2010 |  4:50 pm


California motorists, already in sticker shock over rising fines for parking and traffic tickets, should prepare for more beginning Jan. 1.

The state is adding $4 to the price of every traffic ticket. The fee will go for funding emergency air-transport services because of a revenue shortfall in Medi-Cal funding.

It is set to generate an estimated $34 million a year through 2016, according to state estimates. The increase is the latest in a string of fee increases both statewide and in Los Angeles as governments turn to motorists to pay more amid budget problems.

Last year, the state increased the fines for traffic tickets and used the proceeds to help renovate courthouses. The changes included a $35 surcharge on traffic tickets.

“We have so many different fees tacked on to traffic tickets and many tickets are in the $400 range now,” said Auto Club of California spokeswoman Marie Montgomery. “They should be paying a fine because they broke the law but it’s just a question of how disproportionate this is on drivers versus other taxpayers.”

Another law taking effect Jan. 1 opened the door to a potential revenue stream for cities: allowing local agencies to install cameras on street sweepers to catch parking violators.

Assemblyman Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who authored the bill, said in a statement that it “is vital to keeping our waterways clean” and that ticketing more cars that block street sweepers will help make that happen. Operators of the street sweepers won’t actually issue tickets to scofflaws.

Rather, cameras on the vehicles would capture the date and time a violation and cities would mail out citations, similar to the way red-light cameras tickets are issued. Bradford said the photo tickets would “remove personnel from potentially volatile confrontations when issuing citations and allow local parking enforcement officers to focus time and efforts on more pertinent matters.”

It’s unclear how many cities plan to use sweeper cameras. L.A. has no plans to install the cameras on street sweepers yet but it “may be looked at in the future,” said Sean Anderson, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

-- Nardine Saad

Photo: Street sweepers could be equipped with cameras. L.A. Times file