Fines for red-light traffic violations jumped nearly 65% in L.A. County

In less than eight years, fines for red-light traffic violations in Los Angeles County have jumped nearly 65% from $271 to $446, about three times the region’s rate of inflation, a Times review shows.

With traffic school fees, the total penalties now exceed $500.

Ever-vigilant photo enforcement programs run by more than two dozen agencies across the county have added a new degree of efficiency to catching violators and capturing revenue.

In November alone, Los Angeles County’s Superior Court system processed an estimated 13,000 red-light tickets. And local agencies with camera systems generated nearly $1.6 million in revenue, with an even larger portion of the fines flowing to a combination of state and judicial programs, according to estimates obtained by The Times. Part of the local agencies’ fine income goes to pay camera vendors, typically several thousand dollars per month per camera-equipped intersection.

Critics say the fines have become excessive and mainly a means for profit-making companies and cities to raise cash. But some police and traffic officials, as well as motorists, contend the penalties properly reflect the serious injuries, property damage and deaths that can result when drivers run red lights.

Los Angeles’ red-light traffic camera program, which officials report netted more than $6 million last year after expenses, could be significantly expanded under a contract to be negotiated over the next 14 months.

Although adding more cameras could offer a welcome boost to a city dealing with a recession-driven budget crisis, officials say any expansion will be based on safety considerations.

No goal has been set, but internal City Hall discussions have included the possibility of adding cameras to blocks of eight intersections at a time and doubling the overall reach of the program to 64 intersections, officials with the Los Angeles Police Department told The Times. There are more than 4,200 signalized intersections in the city.