The Fine for Rolling Through a Red Light May Decrease, Making Crosswalks More Dangerous

Fees would be dropped for those who don’t stop before a right turn on red

The state assembly is mulling S.B. 986, a bill that would lower the fine of blowing a right through a red light without stopping from $100 to $35. Sounds like a win, except that bike and pedestrian activists says it will encourage dangerous driving and put those in the crosswalk at even more risk.

Heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, the bill was introduced in the senate by Jerry Hill of San Mateo in response to numerous drivers being nabbed by red light cameras when they go right on red (something that happens often in L.A. County, though the tickets are not really enforceable). The new bill not only lowers the fee for scofflaws—deincentivizing looking right when you’re turning right on red—but it contains a troubling provision, reports Streetsblog.

Before, all drivers had to stop fully and check for other vehicles and pedestrians before turning right, but the new bill says cars only have to “remain stopped” and yield if no pedestrian, cyclist, or other car is in their way (so the $35 ticket would only apply if the driver nearly killed someone in their way). We all know that many careless drivers only look left when turning on a right, thinking they’re in the clear if no car is speeding their way. That mistake leads to collisions between cars turning right and people or cyclists entering the sidewalk, where they have a walk sign. Instead of making drivers more diligent, S.B. 986 is giving them latitude to roll through the light—aka a “California Stop”—if they don’t immediately see an impediment.

The worry over S.B. 986 is legitimate, writes the OC-based My Feet First blog, which notes how deadly Orange County already is for cyclists and walkers.

“With 2-5 lanes in each direction, edging forward is always dicey,” Brenda Miller writes, describing many L.A. roads, as well. “Add a slight curve and/or a few parkway plants and/or a truck . . . even the safest drivers have a hard time seeing what’s coming, especially kids. ‘Remain stopped’ in existing law is important.”