BPD defends red light cameras that lawmaker wants to end

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A Southern California lawmaker wants to stop red light cameras, but Bakersfield police say they think the devices are making local streets safer.

State Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, reportedly says the cameras cause more rear-end accidents. The Bakersfield Police Department says its study shows the most serious types of accidents have gone down where the cameras are in place.

"Our stance is they're working," Sgt. Joe Grubbs told Eyewitness News. "We're reducing collisions by a significant number."

But Harper recently introduced AB 1160 which would ban any new red light cameras from being installed, and require a study of any existing ones. The current language in the bill would require any agency with a red light camera to do a traffic safety study, and then remove any camera if the study showed use of the system did not reduce the number of accidents at that site.

Bakersfield has the cameras at eight intersections, and Grubbs says an engineering study was done in 2013.

"Of the primary collision factors, across the board they're helping," Grubbs said. "And again, by a significant number."

That study shows those crashes went down by 46.8 percent to 73.2 percent at the various intersections. Grubbs says "primary" collisions are crashes like broadsides and head-ons.

The review also looked at "secondary" collisions, and those went down at six of the eight intersections. Those decreases ranged from 2.1 percent to 63.7 percent.

But at the remaining two locations, the number of secondary collisions went up. At Bernard Street and Oswell Street the increase was 84.2 percent, and secondary collisions went up by 15.5 percent at Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue.

The statistics are the average collisions per year, and data for before the cameras went in was an average of 7 years prior to activation.

The "secondary" collisions include sideswipe and rear-end crashes.

It's the rear-enders that the lawmaker is worried about.

But, Grubbs notes Bakersfield has seen the decrease in the "primary" crashes where the red light cameras went in, and he says those are more serious.

"If a collision is occurring on the driver's side of the car, that impact -- depending on how much intrusion there is into the vehicle -- those can be very deadly," Grubbs said.

The bill was just introduced on Feb. 27, and Grubbs says if it becomes law, Bakersfield will comply.

But, he said police are convinced the local red light cameras have a positive impact on the dangerous intersections where they're used.

I can't speak to other communities across the state," Grubbs said. "But, in Bakersfield our cameras are working for us, and it's reduced collisions and made intersections safer where they're being used."