Here’s where cameras are watching for rolling stops

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

At 12:15 p.m. on a warm, sunny day last July, Andrew Rice’s adult kid did a rolling stop in a Prius while leaving the Temescal Canyon parking lot near Pacific Palisades.

What Rice’s kid didn’t know was that he was being filmed as he did so. And the recording would result in a $100 “administrative citation” from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, or MRCA, a public entity that oversees more than 75,000 acres of Southern California parkland.

That’s not the same as a ticket issued by a cop or a Highway Patrol officer. It doesn’t count against your driving record or your insurance rates. But failure to pay can impact your credit score and possibly result in debt collectors coming after you.

“They’re engaged in a deceptive practice of pretending to enforce the motor vehicle code when they don’t have the authority to do that, and they’re tricking people into paying these tickets,” says Santa Monica resident Rice, the registered owner of the Prius.

He received a letter from a debt collector saying he owed a hundred bucks for a citation issued by the MRCA. He says he never saw the original citation, which may have appeared as junk mail.

And you may be thinking: Wait, don’t all SoCal denizens make rolling stops? Not everyone. But in the hours my cameraman and I were at Temescal, we saw numerous drivers roll right through stop signs.

We even saw an MRCA truck do it.

“This is not a program that is meant for public safety,” says Jamie Court, president of the Los Angeles advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. “This is a program that is meant to make income for the park system.”

He noted that because the citations aren’t actual tickets, there are no legal consequences for ignoring them.

“But it could go on your credit score and hurt your chances of getting a mortgage or a loan, and no one wants to deal with that. So people just pay it rather than fight it.”

A spokeswoman for the MRCA told me no one would be available for an interview. But she said by email that the stop-sign cameras are all about public safety.

She said the agency operates seven cameras at four parks – Temescal, Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, Top of Topanga Overlook and Franklin Canyon.

The MRCA issues roughly 17,000 stop-sign citations a year, bringing in about $1.1 million in revenue.

To be sure, they provide ample warning that rolling stops will result in fines. But is this the best way to raise funds?

“It’s a terrible abuse,” says Court. “And the fact that it’s gone on for a decade or more without anyone doing anything is really shameful.”

Rice says he’ll pay off the debt collector to make this problem go away. He also says he appreciates the MRCA’s efforts to maintain local parks.

But this experience has left a sour taste.

“I’m the kind of person who might have donated money to them,” he told me, “and I never would now.”

Oh, and that MRCA truck that also rolled through a stop sign? The agency says it’ll get ticketed too. For what it’s worth.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.