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Police to target red-light runners this week

Original post made on Aug 6, 2007

Red-light runners beware. Police officers in Palo Alto and throughout Santa Clara County will be watching -- and writing citations this week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 6, 2007, 2:17 PM

Comments (42)

Posted by Johnny, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm

Running a red light is only a $100 fine? This is an extremely dangerous violation. Fines should start at $1000 and go up 10 times higher if you hit someone.

Posted by distressed, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Why just this week? Why not every week? Am I the only person who wonders what the cops around here actually DO? Enforcing traffic laws is obviously not as high on their list as it is on the lists of most residents.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 8:30 am

Wouldn't it be great if citizens can report terrible drivers to the authorities? The authorities can then send a blind letter to the offending driver warning them that others have found their driving to be dangerous and offensive.

Obviously the police can't issue tickets based on complaints, but at least the terrible driver will know that people are aware of their driving habits.

The authorities in my scenario, would not keep records on citizen complaints.

I propose this because police are NEVER around when you need them to be.

Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Obviously, my idea has some faults that could be worked out by lawyers, but do you get my general idea?

Posted by Craig, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2007 at 10:00 am

I'm on board! I think you can already do some reporting, but I'm not sure what kind of "teeth" the current system has. I think we all see some people do some crazy and/or dangerous stuff in their car. I think we can all work harder ourselves too on being safer.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 11:27 am

Actually, I take my statement about police never being around.

The Palo Alto police department is doing an excellent job of keeping our neighborhood safe.

I just meant that the crazy drivers hardly get caught. It is unrealistic for the police to be everywhere at every time. That is why I proposed my idea.

Anyway, I hope that people drive safer with this crackdown and after it is over.

Posted by dnftt, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 11:52 am

Wouldn't it be great if citizens can report terrible drivers to the authorities? The authorities can then send a blind letter to the offending driver warning them that others have found their driving to be dangerous and offensive.

They actually do have an on-line form for this.
Try: Web Link

Posted by JP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Joanna, thanks for clarifying your point regarding the police not being around. After the earlier comment where the author questioned what do the police "actually DO", it was beginning to sound like another round of blaming our local government for all the problems in our communities.

While I agree that much of the crazy traffic violations (and more serious crimes) happen without a police officer even close to the area, one must take into account the significant area that a small number of officers need to patrol.

It would be nice, though, if they didn't "announce" the intersections that they are targeting and instead of focusing a bunch of resources during this week spread them out over time.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 1:16 pm

dnftt, that link is PERFECT! I wonder what happens when the form is submitted.

JP, yes, Palo Alto is large and it takes a lot to protect 60k residents. The PAPD does well given the constraints. Good job PAPD.

Yes, the announcing of the crackdown seems odd to me, but maybe scofflaws won't read these posts! ha!

I'm all for random (not announced) DUI checkpoints. Redwood City had one on El Camino and 5th Ave on some random night two years ago. I would forgo a minor inconvenience in the name of greater public safety. Am I alone?

Posted by gemohler, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 7, 2007 at 1:55 pm

What do the police DO?

They do what theyre told to..what the voters get huffy about, or want more done of, what the city government also gets pressure from us to have them do.

And until a bond measure that doubles the size of the traffic force passes, thats how it works.

YOU make noise, the government and the force will react, but they cant answer everything we always want them to do.

Posted by dnftt, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 2:00 pm

I wonder what happens when the form is submitted.

Their site looks like it has been recently updated. The old form used to have these comments:

Traffic Complaint Enforcement -
Residents can assist us in our enforcement efforts by calling (650) 329-2687 whenever they observe a continuing traffic problem that involves unsafe driving. You can now make traffic complaints online.

This form can be used to assist you in making a complaint about various different traffic related issues. These issues can range from speeding, red light running, and stop sign violations to traffic hazards, etc. If the problem you are reporting is in progress (going on right now), call the non-emergency number for the Police Department (650 329-2413) and report it. Otherwise, please complete the form below and then select the method of return response before pressing the "Mail Complaint" button. All complaints will be addressed and if requested, a return response will be made as soon as possible.

Posted by Sam Speedy, a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2007 at 8:54 pm

I don't think there should be a fine for going through red lights. I live out of town and love to run red lights in this area, and do it all the time. I haven't hit anybody yet (though plenty of close calls), so why should people care if I run red lights?

Posted by billy bob, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:29 am

[Comment removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Superman, a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2007 at 9:18 am

[Comment removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by I RIDE A BIKE, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 8, 2007 at 9:50 am

running the red when making a right is my fear, the driver is looking left to see that it's clear; on foot or bike I've had numeous close calls. I doubt this campaign will do much. The Mercury Roadshow has an interesting column on this & the rat-boxes installed to help the cops. Maybe things can change, but I'm not optimistic; we all become morons when we get behind the wheel!
Here's the link

Web Link

Posted by hey, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 8, 2007 at 1:23 pm

the ''police'' ALREADY spend YOUR TAX DOLLARS HARRASING ARRESTING ''LYTTON PLAZA"" PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. there is a known ''cop'' who is short mildly stocky , who wears backpack and cap , so he can blend in at lytton plaza. all this wasted time and tax money while yupper whites drink/drive leaving various palo alto establishments! they are watching skaters and disenfranchised americand lounging in public plaza!! you know why?? its cause the IDEAS of the disenfranchised are more a concern to them than actual ''criminals'' . its also up to THEM who is a ''criminal'' , never a middle class blond white person. even though middle class whites give their offspring gun lessons and karate etc.. this is a RACIST country.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2007 at 8:43 pm

How about adding El Camino and Sand Hill to the list and investing in some red light running cameras? Enforce the red light stop every week, not just this one.

Posted by Its About Time, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 9, 2007 at 12:21 am

Am I the only one who sits at traffic lights and marvels at the fact that 95% of the time someone is running a light, often 4-5 seconds after it has already changed. I know the pace of life has quickened here but it only takes one serious accident for someone to realize "it aint worth it." I wish they would raise fine to $250 and second offenders get license suspended. With appropriate penalties this behavior can be curbed.

Posted by Good Teen Driver, a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Way to be on top of it, PAPD. I have seen so many people doing illegal u-turns, running red lights, etc., IN FRONT OF COPS, yet when my taillights were broken, I got pulled over literally 4 times. They should also stop targeting teens, when a lot of traffic violations are of adults. This city is absolutely rediculous.

Its about time: I do too, especially at El Camino and Page Mill. Absolutely ridiculous.

Posted by NWA, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 9, 2007 at 7:46 pm


Posted by Robert, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 9, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Running a red light should be a fine of $2000 or more. It is very dangerous and causes many deaths. Instead it is a fine of less than $400, less than the fine for littering! I hate littering, but running a red light is much more serious. Most of our traffic fines are way too puny to be real deterrents, so we see a lot of bad driving. Many people think they can get away with it, and it isn't that big a deal if they get caught. Of course their luck will run out one day and someone will die, but our society seems to accept that price for the convenience of driving fast.

Posted by Sue, a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2007 at 5:04 am

I ran a red light once, mainly because the light was yellow when I started to pass through and had I slowed down, the guy who had jumped into my lane before the light would have hit me, very hard! Everyone makes mistakes, but I agree that repeat offenders should be punished more heavily.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2007 at 6:22 am

Sue, it is legal (and sometimes unavoidable) to enter an intersection on a yellow light even if the light turns red before you leave. It is illegal to enter an intersection after the light is red, and that is what is meant by "running a red light".

Posted by Frustrated Driver, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 10, 2007 at 7:55 am

Maybe some people wouldn't feel pressure to "run a red light" because the signal timing on some intersections is programmed so poorly. For example, why does it take 15 minutes to cross Junipero Serra Road at Page Mill. Sometimes drivers behind you get impatient or honk if you slow down at some yellow lights...Just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Posted by 25 mph, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2007 at 8:50 am

The signals on all the major arteries seem to be randomly timed. The result is that you cannot hop onto a street and expect to travel a mile or two without having to stop multiple times. I have lived in cities much larger than Palo Alto where the lights are synchronized to help move the traffic along. For some paranoid reason, that isn't the case anywhere on the mid-peninsula (the cities all seem to believe that if they make their traffic bearable, everyone in the Bay Area will stop by just to experience the pleasant driving conditions, therefore making traffic much worse.)

In their infinite wisdom, our cities' traffic engineers are adding to the frustration of drivers, and that results in more people running red lights, with a concomitant rise in accidents.

My pet peeve: waiting a couple of minutes on Alma for the light at Charleston to change, driving 1/4 mile to East Meadow, and then waiting another minute at the red light there. Also note that the lights on the major streets parallel to University (Lytton, Hamilton) are notoriously mis-timed. The city was willing to erect barriers all over downtown north, but no one apparently considered the simple solution of synchronizing the lights. It's no wonder that drivers cut through neighborhoods.

I have never run a red light, but I can certainly understand why people do.

Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2007 at 9:50 am

One of the big problems with lights here is that quite often you are second or third in line and the car in front wants to turn and there are lots of pedestrians (or possibly a crossing guard), or a truck making a wide turn, and you don't get to go on your red light. Often, there is a train coming at Alma and that is unavoidable. But, the lights are often timed so that even three cars can't make a turn unless there is a filter. That is very annoying and it can make a big difference in timing your trip when it happens a couple of times a day.

Posted by Why no change?, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 10, 2007 at 12:40 pm

I really hope the city is reading this. Government is taking over too much (I might sound like an extremest, but it's true.) They're not taking this issue (as well as countless others) seriously, and they're just sitting back. There really should be something done. If I was old enough, I'd run for city counsel and change stuff around here.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm

Signal synchronization is nearly impossible in Palo Alto because the City controls some intersections, the County controls some (Oregon Expwy, Page Mill, Foothill/Junipero Serra) and Caltrans controls some (El Camino and freeway on/off ramps). Caltrans and the County won't allow any other agency to connect to their controllers to allow for wide-spread synchronization. Throw in the trains that randomly cause red lights and you have a mess, but don't blame the City of Palo Alto for creating it. Please learn your facts before you start blaming people.

Posted by stopping the stoplight tyranny, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 10, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Sorry, Richard, but I do blame Palo Alto for not synchronizing the lights on Hamilton and Lytton. How hard could that be? The distance is short; there are lights every 100 yards. If drivers could travel .5 mile without having to stop three times, you'd see less cut-through traffic.

Only a handful of streets are not under city control. Blaming the problems on the county/state is a typical but not very constructive cop out.

Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Middlefield is my particular bug bear, you get stopped at every light. The ones by Mitchell Park community centre are ridiculous and coming out at Loma Verde from either direction often takes more than one light because of pedestrians and/or traffic turning right. This has to be PAs fault.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2007 at 7:06 pm

hey "hey", dont let those "kids" at Lytton Plaza fool you. They are some of the biggest drug using vandals in this city. They are usually stoned or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Why do you think they carry those backpacks? To carry drugs, alcohol, spray paint, and god knows what other destructive vices.

As far as the red light goes, the law is pretty strict if that the police does not actually see the car behind the 1st white line when the light turn's red, then it will be dismissed in court and everybody's time would have been wasted.

Posted by Frustrated Driver, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 10, 2007 at 7:24 pm

Maybe the kids at Lytton plaza are carrying books in their backpacks! Oh yes,,lets spend more public money on those useless red light cameras and fund big multinationals like GE and Siemens that profit from the installation of these useless, intruding, and inaccurate cameras.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 10, 2007 at 10:26 pm

Is it even possible to synchronize lights for both directions of traffic? I can see how you could do if for one direction or the other, but in areas like downtown where there is heavy traffic in both directions, I am skeptical. Can anyone post an algorithm or timing diagram that would accomplish what people are requesting?

Posted by DontBlameOthers, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 10, 2007 at 10:33 pm

This conversation has gotten way off track. The city is not to blame for red light runners. People who are in too much of a hurry are to blame. Red lights, turning traffic and pedestrians are facts of life on streets shared with lots of other people, so just accept them. They aren't going away any more than you are. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and lower your blood pressure.

Posted by James, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2007 at 11:19 am

Take a look at the City of Palo Alto website. Check out the statistics on the police page. They are issuing between 9 and 10 thousand traffic tickets a year! Don't know about you, but I think that is a lot of tickets. On top of all the other crimes and arrests our police officers make, I can't see why there are those of you on this thread that don't think Palo Alto PD officers don't do anything...

Posted by statistics, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 11, 2007 at 5:00 pm

















Posted by statistics, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 11, 2007 at 5:02 pm

The first 2 columns compares this month with the same month last year. The last 2 columns does the same with "year-to-date". Where did the 8-9,000 number come from?

Posted by questioning, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 11, 2007 at 5:44 pm

And how do we know that "citations" means "traffic tickets." I don't see that anywhere. Those could be tickets for, say, sitting on the sidewalk on University or smoking downtown or any number of things that aren't serious enough to warrant an arrest.

Posted by making no sense, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 12, 2007 at 1:03 pm

there are all those citations, yet i STILL see people running red lights

Posted by driver and walker, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2007 at 9:19 am

The rule is if your front wheels are over the white line before the light turns red, technically you are in the intersection and are legally allowed to complete your travels through the intersection. I have noticed poor behavior not just from drivers but from pedestrians as well. I see jaywalkers stepping out in front of cars and crossing against red lights at every intersection literally every time I go through downtown. Some of them don't even look when they cross. They should be ticketed as well. Bikes running lights and stop signs are also a regular occurrence. Then there are the drivers who are in a hurry and break all the rules mentioned in the previous posts. Pay attention next time you are out and notice the common thread. Most of these people are on cell phones. I would be curious to see if the accident rate in California has gone up in the last 10 years due to phone usage. I would like to pass a law in California stating that if you are in an accident and it is determined that you are at fault because you were on the phone at the time of the accident, it will be illegal for you to own or use a cell phone for a period of a year. This rule would apply to drivers, bikers and pedestrians.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Frustrated Driver,

Re: Lytton Plaza

Are you kidding?? These adults (most of them are 18+, just look younger) do not carry books (except for the books displaying their graffiti). I challenge you to walk over and see EXACTLY what they are doing....

Driver and walker is right about the peds and bicyclists being the worst offenders!

Posted by the future, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Sometimes people run red lights on purpose; sometimes they run red lights by accident. Same with people who cross against lights - bikes, too. Most people mean well, but mistakes are made. Recklessness shuold be punished, but weighted with justice. It's a tough call, all around. Who hasn't run a red light at least once? Or a stop sign, etc.?

Drive and walk defensively.

Eventually, really good surveillance cameras will be doing iris and other biometric detection, along with license plate imaging. Other technologies will also come to bear. Sooner than we think, driving will be put under very, very strict constraints.

Drivers, and pedestrians will be monitored, and regularly cited for not paying attention. Cell phones will one day have built in detection systems that warn drivers and pedestrians of upcoming dangers, like intersections, or corsswalks, etc.


Posted by paloaltosucks, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2007 at 3:08 pm

If any of you idiots ever left your sheltered million dollar houses you would understand that shitty drivers are part of every day life and NOt an epidemic. So how about you go back to driving your goddamn prius's and leave me the fuck alone.

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