Nicole Washington of Merced was taken aback when she got a letter recently from the Department of Motor Vehicles saying her license would be suspended because she hasnt paid a June red-light-camera ticket in Rancho Cordova. Washington hadnt run that red light. Authorities had confused her with a woman of same name.
She and her mom got a copy of the ticket and tracked down the other woman from the address on it. They got the woman to sign a note acknowledging the mistaken identity, and took that to police. Police werent buying it, at least at first, said Melanie James, Washingtons mom.
So James launched a flurry of angry emails last week to city and county leaders. That did the trick. Rancho Cordova police say they took another look this week and, indeed, theyd ticketed the wrong person. They are reviewing what went wrong. This obviously doesnt happen very often, said police Lt. R.L. Davis.
Washingtons situation is the opposite of what usually happens when a red-light camera flashes. New data from the Sacramento sheriffs office shows that three-quarters of drivers photographed by city and county cameras do not get a ticket, including plenty of people who really did illegally run the light.
Most often 20 percent of the time police decide the photo quality isnt good enough to adequately identify the driver. If the driver challenges the ticket, officers must be able to show the judge that the person in the drivers seat looks like the the person cited. Sheriffs Sgt. Todd Deluca said sun glare on the windshield is a typical cause of bad photos.
Often, the case is dropped because the face in the photo is clearly not the same gender as the person listed as vehicle owner. (Some police departments, however, will ask the cars owner to voluntarily tell them who was driving the car.)
Amazingly, 21 people in the last three years got away with doing something perhaps even more stupid than running a red light: They ducked their head below the dashboard or covered their face so the camera couldnt photograph them.
New video red-light cameras now catch drivers who slow down but do not come to a complete stop at a red light before making a right turn. The county hits those drivers with the same $480 ticket as drivers who go straight through the red. The countys red- light statistics do not show how often the sheriffs deputies, who review the video, let those drivers off the hook.
Deluca, who runs the red-light program for the county, told us he has instructed his reviewing officers not to ticket drivers on right-turn cases if the driver slows to about 2 mph before making the turn, and if there are no pedestrians or cyclists near the intersection.
The data, from 2010-2013, show that Watt Avenue-Fair Oaks Boulevard intersection has the most red-light violations of the 26 installations in the city and county. Second flashiest intersection is Fifth and I streets downtown.
Call The Bees Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.