Speed sensors on red-light cameras could raise money fast


Speeding may be dangerous for drivers, but it could soon be a boon for California’s fiscal health.

Tucked deep into the budget that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled Friday is a plan to give cities and counties the green light to install speed sensors on red-light cameras to catch -- and ticket -- speeding cars.

Those whizzing by the radar-equipped detectors at up to 15 mph over the limit would have to pay $225 per violation. Those going faster would be fined $325.

Small-government advocates want to put the brakes on the plan.

“This is a budget item for the state?” said Lew Uhler, president of the National Tax Limitation Committee. “This is totally reprehensible.”

Red-light cameras are already in place in communities across the Southland. The governor wants to install speed detectors in 500 of those cameras, which would nab an estimated 2.4 million speeding violators a year, according to the state Department of Finance.

In Beverly Hills, for instance, there are nine red-light cameras, which could catch 835 speeders a month, the Schwarzenegger administration estimated.

That would add up to big bucks for cash-strapped California -- about $337.9 million through June 2011 -- to pay for state courts. Every year after that, the program would generate nearly half a billion dollars, the Finance Department says. Local governments would get a share.

All of which annoyed Uhler.

“I was nailed by one of these [red-light] turn cameras. It’s so irritating,” he said. As for the possibility of driving a smidgen over the speed limit and receiving an unwelcome ticket weeks later in the mail: “Just obnoxious,” he said.

The proposal also touted safety: “There would be . . . fewer accidents and injuries to drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”