Speed cameras explained by advocate from Fix PCH

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Director of Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE) counters arguments against speed cameras 

It’s an unfortunate statistic making news recently. Traffic accidents killed more people than homicides in Los Angeles last year. Pedestrians made up most of those deaths as we know all too tragically with the deaths of four Pepperdine students in October. 

A frequent call to help make Pacific Coast Highway, that has seen the deaths of 58 people since 2010, safer is for speed cameras and red-light cameras to be installed in Malibu as soon as possible.

A lifesaving speed camera bill, AB 645, was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, but unfortunately Malibu is not one of the six cities authorized to launch the test program.

That news is unsettling for activist Damian Kevitt, founder and executive director of Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE), whose mission is to improve the quality of life for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers by reducing traffic fatalities to zero. 

Kevitt knows first-hand the grave consequences of reckless driving. In 2013, while bicycling through Griffith Park, he was the victim of a hit-and-run speeder. Kevitt was pinned underneath the car and dragged a quarter-mile onto the Interstate 5 freeway. He lost his right leg and 20 pounds of flesh. The driver has still not been caught and Kevitt is lucky to be alive. He’s dedicated his life to helping prevent further tragedies on Southern California highways and is a member of Fix PCH, a local safety advocacy group.

Kevitt reminded that speed is the chief factor causing traffic accidents. He is a strong proponent of speed and red-light cameras, legal in California, though controversial.

Vehicles that pass intersections after the light has changed red or turn right on red where it’s not allowed could be ticketed with the use of these much-criticized cameras. “The red-light camera law is pretty crappy,” Kevitt admitted. He called the legislation “poorly written. 

“There’s a legal loophole. They have to identify the driver and the fines are atrocious at $500,” he said.

Many argue the fines are not equitable. The cities of Los Angeles, Glendale, Pasadena, and Long Beach gave up on the cameras. They are still used, however, in Beverly Hills and Culver City.

“Using technology, there’s not an officer involved,” Kevitt said. “You’re essentially supercharging the system. The fines should not be $500. It should be more equitable.” 

Even though Kevitt is not a fan of red-light cameras, he makes an exception recommending them for Malibu. 

“The basic problem with PCH is speeding,” he said. “It’s designed as a fast road, essentially a freeway going through a city with a lot of pedestrians, businesses, and residences. It’s nuts to have a freeway at high speed going through the center of Malibu. It’s bonkers.”

Speed cameras used in the new state pilot program AB645 work differently according to Kevitt. After a warning for the first offense, a $50 fine is issued automatically to the registered owner of the vehicle going more than 10 miles over the limit. Fines increase as speeds do. No warning is given to extreme speeders going 50 miles over the speed limit. Funds raised from the program must be funneled back into traffic safety measures. 

“There’s more experience in what is an equitable use of technology to do traffic enforcement. So, it’s not a speed trap. It’s saving lives,” said Kevitt.

The SAFE director is calling for an immediate redesign of PCH, but called Caltrans a “slow, lumbering beast” due to bureaucracy. 

“Best case in five to seven years they will start redesigning a section,” he said.

Since speed cameras will take some time to implement, Kevitt suggests the use of red-light cameras that are currently legal. “You’ve essentially created a corridor speed can be managed,” he said.

While other speed lowering measures are planned, “you’ve got to do something to save lives,” he added. “Most people in Malibu can afford that ticket and honestly if they’re in Malibu and driving that rate of speed, f— ’em, they need a $500 ticket.”

Kevitt advocates for speed cameras on sections of PCH without traffic signals that may not see as much attention from patrols. “The combination of both types of cameras could be very effective for catching speeders,” he said.

And Kevitt has an answer for those who argue that usage of speed and red-light cameras with license plate readers violate privacy. AB645 he explained, “has more privacy provisions than your average parking tickets that are given by cameras.”  

AB645 is not allowed to use facial recognition software, only stills of license plates. 

“We don’t know who’s driving the car. We only know who it’s registered to. The ticket only goes to the registered owner, just like a parking ticket goes to the registered owner,” Kevitt said. “It doesn’t count on your record or against your insurance. It is literally a parking ticket. If you lend your car to someone who is irresponsible enough to get a $50 ticket, then you need to be a little more responsible about who you lend your car to.  There are provisions for those who cannot afford the fee. If a person’s image is captured on camera, the image must be destroyed under regulation within a week. Once the ticket is resolved, any photographic evidence must be scrubbed from the system within 60 days. It’s anonymized data.”

“The key to solving PCH is making sure the appropriate section, high density areas are slowed to appropriate speeds and designed to be slower. Ensure speeding laws are enforced,” Kevitt said. “Residents should be thankful there is more enforcement now, but you can only pull over one person at a time. Using speed cameras, so you essentially have a traffic officer there 24/7 is also key. Without either one of those you haven’t solved PCH. We can’t give up.”