HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Hayward is giving the green light to begin dismantling its red-light cameras. The City Council voted, 6 to 1, Tuesday night to direct staff to create a plan to consider immediately terminating its red light camera program, Hayward Chief of Police Diane Urban, and city staff, said the cameras are ineffective means to reduce traffic accidents.

The only member to vote against the resolution was Barbara Halliday, who said she didn’t see a clear step for the next plan of action for the resolution. Councilmember Greg Jones motioned for the resolution on the grounds that a plan for termination would be brought back to the council as soon as possible.

The staff report determined that according to data collected since the red light cameras were implemented in 2007, along with other national studies, there has not been a significant reduction in traffic accidents. In fact the report has concluded that there has been an increase in rear endings since the cameras implementation. At the intersection of Industrial Boulevard and Huntwood Avenue there was a 700 percent spike in rear-end crashes in 2010.

Although there was a sharp decrease in traffic incidents for a short while after the cameras implementation that decline reversed sharply since then. Urban said the program has proven to be “consistently inconsistent.” Thirty-four cities in California thus far have phased out their red light camera programs for similar reasons. Nearby San Leandro implemented similar red light cameras last year with the same vendor used in Hayward with some opposition from the community.

Urban recommended a phase-out of the program over the next two years that assumes that the pending “California Supreme Court decision will not legally nullify the use of red light camera evidence.” According to the report if the “Supreme Court holds that red light camera evidence is admissible, then the City’s entire contract with Redflex, and the corresponding automated traffic enforcement at all 10 intersections, terminates for cause.”

Urban said a new traffic accident reduction program that used officers to be present at high risk intersections usually helped calm down traffic. When officers were used, according to Urban, they witnessed a traffic accident reduction as much as 35 percent. Also, the chief implemented longer yellow lights at certain intersections but the change hasn’t been in place long enough to have quantifiable data.

Much of the council though, Councilmembers Marvin Peixoto, Francisco Zermeno, Al Mendall, Mark Salinas and Jones, leaned towards the staff’s alternative option to phasing out the program. Instead they advocated for an immediate termination. According to Peixoto, if a phase out only extends the risk of rear end collisions, a result of the red light cameras because it may cause drivers to stop short, then the program should be terminated as soon as possible. “The idea of phasing out rear end collisions doesn’t sit well with me,” said Peixoto, “Let’s not risk more bad backs, injuries and death.”

Salinas said that a termination of the program would result in an immediate fine of $108,000 for the city but residual pay from fines in recent months would likely help cover that cost. But despite the talk of saving funds advocates of the second option said that the decision had nothing to do with money but instead dealt with public safety.

“This started as a public safety issue. This doesn’t have anything to do with money.” said Jones with Peixoto following in agreement, “This may be odd coming from a fiscal conservative but this isn’t about the money.”

Mayor Michael Sweeney said he thinks the cameras helped calmed down certain intersections concerning potential broadside collisions. Urban reminded Sweeney collisions had dropped initially and then went back up. Furthermore, she said that because of having officers on site now there has been a city-wide reduction in accidents. Sweeney still requested a summary of raw data to be included in the report next time the issue returns to the council.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.