Motorists passing through the eight San Diego intersections monitored by red-light cameras will have less leeway for running red lights after a City Council vote today.

The council voted 6-2 to shorten drivers’ grace period from 0.5 seconds to 0.1 seconds after city staff estimated that 65 percent of the red-light tickets that could have been issued weren’t because of the grace period.

Staff also reported that there has been a 17 percent reduction in the amount of car accidents at those eight cross streets since the cameras were installed. Jurisdictions with cameras but not a grace period have reduced accidents at affected intersections by a “more effective” rate, between 22 percent and 70 percent.

Whittling down the grace period will result in the issuance of more tickets by the Police Department, which will bring in more money for the city, but council members in favor of the measure said they confined their approval only to the added safety.

“We shouldn’t make the rules flexible to the point that you get another inch, another inch, another inch,” Councilwoman Toni Atkins said.

The red-light program costs $1.52 million to operate annually, city staff said, and currently the red-light tickets generate about $926,000 every year. Without the grace period, tickets-by-camera will raise about $1.12 million, staff said.

Councilman Jim Madaffer, a critic of the program, said he thought the program created “a lot of aggravation for a little public benefit,” claiming that the cameras weren’t technically foolproof. He and Councilman Brian Maienschein cast the only two votes against reducing the grace period.


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