BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 2128 (Cook)
          As Introduced  February 23, 2012
          Majority vote 

           TRANSPORTATION      13-0                                        
           
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          |Ayes:|Bonnie Lowenthal,         |     |                          |
          |     |Jeffries, Achadjian,      |     |                          |
          |     |Blumenfield, Bonilla,     |     |                          |
          |     |Buchanan, Eng, Furutani,  |     |                          |
          |     |Galgiani, Logue, Norby,   |     |                          |
          |     |Portantino, Solorio       |     |                          |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
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           SUMMARY  :  Requires the California Department of Transportation 
          (Caltrans) and local authorities to lengthen yellow light timing 
          intervals, under certain circumstances, and clarifies that 
          "rolling right turn" violations would be assessed at a $35 base 
          fine.  Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Requires Caltrans or a local authority to determine the 
            appropriate yellow light signal interval based on the 
            prevailing traffic speed rather than on posted speed limits 
            set based on a rounding down to the nearest five mile per hour 
            (mph) increment.  

          2)Revises and recasts provisions clarifying that drivers stopped 
            at red light signals are prohibited from proceeding straight 
            through an intersection or making a left turn (except for a 
            left turn from a one-way street onto a one-way street) until 
            an indication to proceed is shown, a violation of which is 
            subject to a base fine of $100.  

          3)Revises and recasts provisions clarifying that a driver, after 
            having come to a complete stop at a red light signal, is 
            authorized to turn right or turn left from a one-way street 
            onto a one-way street (except when a sign is in place 
            prohibiting such a turn), a violation of which is subject to a 
            base fine of $35.  

          4)Requires local authorities to extend the time of the yellow 
            light interval by a minimum of one second over the minimum 








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            time required for the posted speed or prima facie speed limit 
            at intersections where automatic traffic enforcement systems 
            (red light cameras) are in use.  

          5)Requires that any citation issued at intersections where the 
            minimum yellow light change interval has not been lengthened 
            pursuant to the requirements of this bill be dismissed.  

           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Requires Caltrans to revise the California Manual on Uniform 
            Traffic Control Devices (CMUTCD), as it read on January 12, 
            2012, to authorize Caltrans or a local authority to round 
            speed limits down to the nearest five mph increment of the 
            prevailing traffic speed and prohibits Caltrans or a local 
            authority from further reducing the speed limit for any reason 
            if the option to round the speed limit down is exercised.  

          2)Requires drivers to stop behind a limit line at a red light.  

          3)Provides that, after stopping at a red light, a driver may 
            turn right or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way 
            street if it is safe to do so, unless there are signs 
            prohibiting such turns.  

          4)Authorizes the use of automated traffic enforcement systems at 
            railroad crossings and intersections to record violations of 
            unlawful grade crossing and red light running, if certain 
            conditions are met.  

          5)Specifies that failing to stop at a red signal light is 
            punishable with a base fine of $100, under certain 
            circumstances.  

          6)Specifies that stopping at a red light then proceeding to make 
            a turn that is unsafe is a violation with a base fine of $35.  


          7)Allocates the first 30% of moneys collected for certain red 
            light violations to the general fund of the city or county 
            where the offense occurred.  

          8)Requires that, at intersections where red light cameras are in 
            operation, the minimum yellow light change interval must be 








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            established in accordance with the CMUTCD.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown

           COMMENTS :  Right turn on red violations:  By introducing this 
          legislation, the author seeks to reduce the fine for "rolling 
          right turn" violations to more accurately reflect the 
          seriousness of the violation.  The author describes a "rolling 
          right turn" as a maneuver where a driver slows but does not come 
          to a complete stop at the limit line before making a right hand 
          turn.  This bill would clarify that the base fine for this 
          maneuver is $35 while the base fine for running straight through 
          an intersection on a red light or turning left on a red light 
          (both of which more frequently result in catastrophic right 
          angle accidents) would be assessed with a $100 base fine.  

          The "rolling right turn" violation portion of this bill is 
          identical to language presented in AB 909 (Hill) of 2010, which 
          attempted to correct what was considered to be a drafting error 
          in AB 1191 (Shelley), Chapter 852, Statutes of 1997.  AB 1191 
          increased the base fine for red light violations from $35 to 
          $100 to target catastrophic right angle collisions that 
          frequently result from running a red light.  AB 909 would have 
          clarified that "rolling right turn" violations would be assessed 
          with a $35 base fine.  The bill was passed by the Legislature 
          but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on the grounds that 
          lowering the fine for this traffic maneuver would send the wrong 
          message.  

          Generally, the Vehicle Code assigns higher penalties to traffic 
          violations with greater potential for injury or death.  For 
          example, violations with a fine equal to the fine for running a 
          red light ($100 base fine) include failure to yield to an 
          emergency vehicle, throwing lighted material out a window onto 
          the highway, and failure to use child safety seats.  Violations 
          resulting in $35 base fines include failing to yield right of 
          way in a crosswalk or unsafe turn or lane change.  

          Studies conducted by Safer Streets LA show that "rolling right 
          turn" violations result in far fewer accidents than running 
          straight through an intersection or making a left turn on a red 
          light.  Specifically, the study notes that "rolling right turns" 
          are the cause of approximately 45 accidents per year in the City 
          of Los Angeles compared to the approximately 56,000 collisions 








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          that occur there annually.  The study also notes that over an 
          eight year period, no fatalities resulted from "rolling right 
          turns."  Moreover, a recent Los Angeles Times article estimated 
          that 80% of red light camera tickets were issued for "rolling 
          right turn" violations and that these tickets were often given 
          to drivers who actually stopped safely but were just a few 
          inches over the white line.  

          The large fine for "rolling right turn" violations has gained 
          attention recently with increased use of red light cameras at 
          intersections, since these cameras now capture and assess fines 
          each and every time the violation occurs.  With base fines for 
          these violations assessed at $100 and the total fine totaling 
          $450 or more in most jurisdictions, many individuals are 
          challenging these penalties.  In fact, the San Mateo County 
          Civil Grand Jury recently that found that "the fine for failure 
          to stop before making a right hand turn seems out of proportion 
          to similar offenses and as a result is often appealed to traffic 
          court."  

          Writing in opposition to this bill, the California Police Chiefs 
          Association claims that the bill would undermine the ability of 
          local agencies to make use of red light camera enforcement 
          programs that have resulted in significant reductions in both 
          accidents and fatalities associated with red light running.  The 
          Police Chiefs association, however, fails to address the fact 
          that the bill does not eliminate the fines for "rolling right 
          turn" violations but rather more closely aligns the penalty with 
          the gravity of the offense.  
           
           Yellow light change intervals:  This bill also addresses yellow 
          light signal timing intervals in a variety of situations.  
          First, the bill seeks to correct yellow light signal timing 
          problems that could arise as the result of recent legislation 
          dealing with the setting of speed limits.  Additionally, this 
          bill seeks to increase yellow light signal times at 
          intersections with red light cameras, because these 
          intersections have been identified by local jurisdictions as 
          being problematic with respect to the number and severity of 
          accidents.  This bill would also specify that if additional time 
          is not added to yellow light signal times at specified 
          intersections, then any citations issued at those intersections 
          would be dismissed.  









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          According to the author, this bill addresses the unintended 
          consequences of AB 529 (Gatto), Chapter 528, Statutes of 2011, 
          that allows Caltrans and local jurisdictions to exercise the 
          option of rounding speed limits to the next lowest five mph 
          increment below the prevailing speed.  The author argues that 
          since yellow signal times in California are based on posted 
          speed limits, which normally coincides with the prevailing speed 
          of traffic, the effect of rounding speed limits down is that 
          yellow light signal times will being shorter by as much as 0.4 
          seconds.  The author notes that the reduced yellow light signal 
          time would increase the chances for intersection collisions 
          since more motorists will either attempt to stop when travelling 
          faster than the speed limit (potentially resulting in a rear end 
          collisions) or attempt to make it through the intersection 
          (potentially resulting in a severe right angle collisions).  The 
          author seeks to correct this situation by requiring Caltrans and 
          local jurisdictions to set yellow light signal times in 
          accordance with prevailing rates of speed (85th percentile) 
          rather than in accordance with posted speed limits, which may be 
          artificially low.  

          This bill also addresses yellow light signal timing intervals at 
          intersections with red light cameras.  The author notes that the 
          bill targets these intersections because these locations have 
          been identified by local authorities as having a prevalence of 
          accidents associated with red light violations.  This bill would 
          require that local jurisdictions add one second to the yellow 
          signal time intervals to better allow for through and turning 
          movements.  The author cites numerous studies and reports that 
          demonstrate the safety benefits of longer yellow light signal 
          times.  Arguing in support of this bill, Safer Streets LA cites 
          numerous studies, including those performed by the organization 
          itself, showing that increasing yellow light signal times allows 
          drivers time to comfortably stop before a light turns red.  The 
          author has also cited a study performed in 2004 by the Texas 
          Department of Transportation that shows increasing yellow light 
          timing intervals by one second over "minimum times" decreased 
          violations by 53% and the overall number of crashes at 
          intersections by 40%.  These findings were replicated in 
          California cities such as Loma Linda where adding an additional 
          1.3 seconds to the yellow light interval resulted in violations 
          falling from 197 per month to four per month.  The City of 
          Fremont also experienced a significant reduction in violations 
          when yellow signal times were increased by 0.7 seconds above the 








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          minimum required time.  

          Related legislation:  AB 909 (Hill) of 2010, would have reduced 
          the fine for violations involving a right turn against a red 
          light from a base fine of $100 to a base fine of $35.  That bill 
          was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.  His veto message stated 
          that lowering the fine for this violation would send the wrong 
          message regardless of whether the direction of the maneuver is a 
          dangerous traffic movement.  

           
          Analysis Prepared by  :   Victoria Alvarez / TRANS. / (916) 319- 
          2093 


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