Red light tickets thrown out in San Mateo: City to reimburse 948 tickets issued over 45 days because cameras, signals in violation of new state laws

By Samantha Weigel : smdailyjournal – excerpt

Nearly 1,000 drivers who received a ticket for running a red light in San Mateo will be given a free pass after two of the city’s red light cameras and traffic signals were found to be in violation of new state laws.

The police department will toss out 948 tickets issued between Aug. 1 and Oct. 15 after a San Mateo County Superior Court judge sided with a Burlingame man who received a ticket and sparked an NBC Bay Area investigation.

Carrying a hefty $540 fine, the city will dismiss $511,920 worth of tickets after staff failed to increase the yellow light times per new regulations in the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The city maintains three cameras, two along Hillsdale Boulevard and one at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Humboldt Street, which police say were set to provide a yellow light time of 3.4 seconds — .2 seconds above the state’s previous minimum but lower than the new 3.7 requirement.

An investigation sparked by Andre Clemente, who decided to fight against a ticket he received in January for rolling through the intersection at Hillsdale Boulevard and Saratoga Drive, ultimately resulted in the city admitting it failed to update its system.

“Even though we coordinate with public works to routinely update the system and calibrate them, somehow it was missed,” said police Sgt. Rick Decker. “Because we care about the integrity of the program, we made a decision to refund all those tickets.”

San Mateo police argue Clemente’s ticket was issued prior to the new law and their records indicate the cameras were in compliance at the time.

However, the department does acknowledge two of the city’s three lights were not updated nor was a traffic study conducted that would have allowed them to calibrate the system based on the average speed of 85 percent of drivers at the intersections.

Clemente, with the help of NBC’s Investigative team and Los Angeles resident Jay Beeber, who advocated for the new law, claim a video of the Burlingame man’s ticket shows the yellow lights were set to just 3.066 seconds, below the former 3.2-second minimum.

Ultimately, a judge dismissed Clemente’s ticket but didn’t provide a definitive answer as to why, according to the NBC report…

Once aware of the problem, the city immediately shut down enforcement for two days to audit and correct the light timing, reversed the 948 citations and put measures in place to ensure the problem wouldn’t be repeated, Norris said.

“We at the city of San Mateo don’t define ourselves by the problems we encounter,” Norris wrote in an email. “We define ourselves by what we do when encountering problems.”… (more)

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