Thursday, October 13, 2011

Big Brother is Watching Me

My mother used to refer to my life as "The Perils of Pauline," which I think was an early movie serial about a heroine who went from one catastrophe to another, a perennial damsel in distress. I felt vaguely offended and never asked her what it was. Nor did she ever tell me. My mother would be happy to know that today, there was a new installment.

I got a traffic citation in the mail - how cowardly - with photographic proof that I ran a red light. There were four pictures: my car at the red light, my car turning right at the red light onto a freeway onramp, me at the wheel and my license tag. Also included was information from the car's registration and my driver's license: My height, weight, age, birthday, hair and eye colors -- total violation. I smell a rat. It isn't that I believe I am perfect. I am capable of running a red light, but I don't believe I could do so without knowing about it. I am a careful and conscious driver. But if I did, it's legal to turn right on red unless indicated otherwise, and I don't believe there is any signage to that effect at this intersection.

Nowhere on the paper does it state the amount of the fine although I'm sure it's a whopper as mere expired parking meter tickets are $75. The fine for a moving violation involving a red light would probably make the paper burst into flames, causing extreme consternation at the post office. What is more, it states that within 30 days I will receive another notice telling me what the "bail" amount is, and if I don't respond by the deadline, they will attach more fees, have me arrested and take my firstborn son. They are placing the onus on me in a city notorious for bad mail delivery. (Example: We never get mail on Saturdays. I've heard rumors that the post office is considering saving money by discontinuing Saturday delivery but it won't make a difference in my neighborhood. We don't get it anyway.) So now I have to try to remember to keep track of the date so if I don't receive the nasty missive, I can report it. Or move to Saudi Arabia, maybe, where women are not allowed to drive at all.

I have the option if I qualify of attending traffic school - in Oakland - to prevent getting points on my license and higher insurance premiums. After I pay up, of course. I wonder if there is an online traffic school I could do instead. I hope they don't sentence me to ten lashes with a whip. And make me wear a burka.


nick said...

Perhaps you should wear a burka when you're driving. Then you could say you weren't the driver, it was someone else.

So if it's legal to turn right unless otherwise indicated, how come you've committed an offence? And what a ridiculous waste of public resources when there was no accident involved.

Bob said...

go to traffic court instead. Tell your story to the judge. Depending on the judge, of course, they should give you the benefit of the doubt - there's no way the picture evidence can prove you didn't stop before turning. I'm sure the city knows this, and issues this kind of ticket anyway knowing a percentage of people will pay it. There's no cost to them and a virtual guarantee of more income from these tickets.

Alternately, contact a lawyer and let him handle it. It'll cost more than the ticket, but you'll get no points nor increased insurance.

good luck.

the walking man said...

What Bob said. and a trial by jury is your right as well. Other than you are just a wee busy right now these things are kind of fun to fight. The Orwellian world has arrived.

TechnoBabe said...

I have heard of online traffic school. My last ticket was two years ago and after paying the fine and the fee for the school it was a large amount but it did get the record cleared.

Paula said...

Oh, Susan, as if you needed anymore drama! It would be understandable if you were so distracted right now that you committed a violation, but if you were turning RIGHT, it sounds like whoever interpreted the day's film made a big mistake. It would definitely be cheaper to get a lawyer than to pay. Good luck.

My cousin's husband returned from vacation to find two citations from out of state, but he was guilty. I fail to recall what one incident was, but the other, he didn't have the change for an automated toll at a turnpike entrance and just drove through, shown on camera. These cameras are really good.

I think of you so often.

PeterAtLarge said...

Just back from driving in England. Heard, AFTER speeding around like a Californian for two weeks, that there are cameras everywhere that take pictures, and that speeding tickets are sent out--as you describe. Still don't know if I acquired any, since I was in a borrowed car. So, yes, I sympathize. Big Brother IS watching us, it seems.

secret agent woman said...

I got one of those right on red tickets, too. Apparently you have to stop for a full 5 seconds, or some such. Who knew? $50 fine for me.

I googled the Perils of Pauline - apparently she was considered to be more resourceful than the average damsel in distress. The series was from 1914, and the description was: The premise of the story was that Pauline's wealthy guardian Mr. Marvin, upon his death, has left her inheritance in the care of his secretary, Mr. Koerner, until the time of her marriage. Pauline wants to wait a while before marrying, as her dream is to go out and have adventures to prepare herself for becoming an author. Mr. Koerner, hoping to ultimately keep the money for himself, tries to turn Pauline's various adventures against her and have her "disappear" to his own advantage.

English Rider said...

I believe Pauline was frequently tied to railway tracks in the path of oncoming trains.
If there is no interdiction to turning on red, i wonder if there is a defect whereby anything that crossed the intersection after the light changed was photographed?
Traffic school is absolutely available on line and select teenagers/students can be paid to spend the time answering the questions.
As one who's husband is a regular offender, you do need to mark the date by which you should receive the bail notice. It is your obligation to call in if you don't receive it, or you will be fined extra.
My boy gets shipped off to "away" traffic school so I get a Saturday to myself from time to time. There are usually other French offenders in the classes.
Love the burka by the way.

Molly said...

Don't do an on-line course! Even the ones you attend in person are a joke! Just another way to squeeze you for more money! Anyway, if it's legal to turn right on red, why should you have to go at all? Why are they even wasting money sending you a ticket?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


What a marvelous idea! I wonder if Amazon sells them. And are they one-size-fits-all, do you think?


I intend to go to traffic court, despite the inconvenience. I represented myself once before on a speeding ticket, and won. I hate to brag, but...:


I really don't have the time or energy, but will do it because I really believe the ticket is unjustified.


They actually require me to pay the fine, whatever it is, before I contest it, which doesn't make sense at all. Money-grubbing cretins.


Yes, I agree that I could have committed a violation out of stress, but don't believe I did in this instance. I also think they are counting on most people just paying up rather than going to the trouble of appearing. (And it's tempting.)


The person whose car you borrowed may have some unpleasant surprises in store, but let's hope not. Just remembering to drive on the other side is an effort, isn't it?


I googled her, too, while writing this post. At least she was resourceful, and I give myself that, too.

If the ticket were $50, I would pay it and forget it, but in the Bay area, it will be far uglier than that.


Don't you love Nick's suggestion that I wear the burka while driving so I can deny culpability?

I am amused by the idea of someone being a regular at traffic school, but hope to avoid multiple appearances there myself.


I agree that I shouldn't have been ticketed. Today I checked carefully on my way back from there and there is no sign saying that one can't turn right on red. I wish I didn't have to put energy toward this now, but it seems I do.

e said...

Good luck with this Susan, though it does sound like both a mistake and a pain for you. My money's on you for this one. Keep eating chocolate cake.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


When all else fails, eat chocolate. I just ordered a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing for Flip's birthday on Tuesday. If I thought it would help, I would send one to the police department, too.

Elaine Steward said...

Fine is $400+. You can apply to on-line traffic school to see whether this type of citation qualifies (I suspect it does, but who knows?). But I thought that camera citations had been declared unconstitutional in CA. Maybe just in LA? I'd try contacting the SF Chronicle or some such to find out.

Omas Sammelalbum said...

Great post! I wish you all the best. Ah traffic mess!Good luck.

Maria said...

I would go to the site and gather my evidence and then take it to traffic court.

Right is right.

Brown said...

Burkas are hot. No, really, unless you install a fan you may overheat your girly bits.

As for the traffic violation, unless it says that the right turn is illegal, I would definitely fight it. My understanding is that the city is betting that most people will just send in the money, which of course, is what most people do.

Paula said...

If the sign says "right turn after stop", with no other qualifiers, and your state Motor vehicle handbook doesn't state anything more, you should definitely have a case.

I have never heard of a five second stop rule. In AR, if a policeman is watching an intersection, the definition of a complete stop is that your wheels stop turning. Stopping and looking, but not long enough for you wheels to be completely still,is called a rolling stop. Cameras aren't very common here for traffic use. All the ones I see mounted on poles locally seem to be for simply monitoring the traffic system. They aren't positioned to get license tags.

Hope you ate a lot of birthday cake and that Flip enjoyed himself.

Paula said...

Oops! The birthday isn't until Tuesday.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Gasp. I checked online and apparently they were ruled unconstitutional in LA and San Diego because the victim is unable to confront his accuser, a machine, in court. But not in the Bay area - yet. I will have to go to court because it's completely unaffordable and I don't believe I did anything wrong.


Thank you. I need all the luck I can get.


I have checked the intersection several times since I got the citation and there is no sign forbidding a right turn. There is a video online which must be watched before I can do anything, but it keeps telling me that the info I submit is wrong. Another ploy, I suspect, to make people give up and pay up.


That is my theory, too. And they make it so very difficult that it's tempting, but I will have to make the huge effort it requires. As in "oh shit."


There is no sign at all, just a traffic signal. I really hate that this happened. And Flip's birthday is this Tuesday so no cake yet. But I'm looking forward to it, and hope he is able to enjoy his birthday.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

You know, in Denver we've just found out that we don't actually have to pay those tickets unless they are served to us in person...

Here's the article:,0,6858710.story

Granted, it was Fox news and Fox is notorious for fish wrapper news, but they aren't the only media who printed the story.

Check your city statutes to see if you have to pay it if it was only mailed.

Best of luck.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Anonymous said...

That sucks!Fight it right to the supreme court. I'll advocate for you. I don't have to be a citizen to do that, do I? No, seriously, your citation seems highly questionable to me. Otherwise, you get Saturday mail delivery in some parts? We haven't had that in Canada for a couple of decades.

Jocelyn said...

Seems like this one is worth fighting. I'd wager, though, that they didn't lay out how to lodge an appeal...?

Go with what Bob recommends!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I got ANOTHER one exactly a week later, same intersection, same alleged infraction. Each will cost $480, which must be paid before I can go to court. I am desolate, but also fighting mad.


We officially still have Saturday mail delivery, but the mail carrier for this neighborhood seems to take a lot of unofficial vacations.


This is clearly not a safety issue, but a revenue issue, and I think it's outrageous and obscene.

Paula said...

Wow, you need a lawyer fast. That is so awful. Maybe the CA state police need to know something is not right about the traffic cameras in SF. In AR, there have been a few cases of undercover state police shutting down rigged speed traps. Something similar might need to be done there.

Paula said...

I never heard of having to pay a fine BEFORE appearing in traffic court. Here, the court date is set such that if the judge doesn't forgive the ticket, you can then pay the fine.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It does seem as if something is wrong with the camera as I was ticketed in separate incidents almost exactly a week apart to the minute. The woman I spoke with at the courthouse said that 90% of these tickets are cases of "rolling stops." I may have slowed, looked around, seen no other cars and turned while the light was still red. The fee is unbelievably exorbitant and punishing. And I have never heard of having to pay up before disposition of a case either.

nick said...

Another infraction a week later at the same spot? That has to be a mistake. And it makes the first one look like a mistake as well.

English Rider said...

Are you in jail? We miss you. Hope you're O.K.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Just coming by to check in on you and see how things are going.



heartinsanfrancisco said...


I agree. I just got a "courtesy notice" from the court on the first one. The "bail" amount is $480, or $537 to attend traffic school. I know, nobody died or anything, but I am in utter shock and despair.


Not in jail yet. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though, and for checking on me.


See above. I'll post again when I have something to say which is hopefully more cheerful than this.

Paula said...

The figures you are quoting are absolutely appalling! You have my sympathy. I went to traffic school about ten years ago after ticket (only second one in forty five years of driving)to lessen the ire of the insurance company. It was a very nominal fee. It was a fairly aggravating experience. Easy to pass, but the company was poor. Almost no one else my age who found it embarrassing to be there. I was in a room of young punks who appeared to be habitual, deliberate bad drivers and thought it was all a big joke.

I would think everyone in SF would be really good drivers, as the cost of any little mistake would be a serious financial setback.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I believe I am a really good driver. But I am constantly appalled at OTHER drivers in SF who seem to have no clue about right of way or generally anything related to safety. And nothing about this is a joke to me.

Paula said...

I pray you're not surrounded by the ones holding a cell phone is one hand and a coke in the other---or worse yet texting, with any hand. You wouldn't think they would have to bother to pass laws against texting and driving.

Hope this can be successfully resolved soon. You sure don't need the aggravation.