Cameras may focus on Illegal right turns

One of the most dangerous intersections in The City may become equipped with an automated camera that would catch motorists who make an illegal right turn, much like cameras throughout The City that nab red-light runners.

A bill by Assemblymember Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, would allow The City to post an automated camera at the intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Market Street. Since the intersection opened in 2005 after the Central Freeway was torn down, 13 people have been hit, according to Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose district includes the intersection. In 2007 alone, at least 30 pedestrians have died in one of the deadliest years for city strollers.

Last year, a truck carrying cement made an illegal turn at the intersection and hit Margaret Timbrell. Timbrell survived the collision but sustained 24 broken bones throughout her body, a collapsed lung and fluid in her chest cavity.

The intersection has undergone several safety improvements since. The city placed extra signage at the corner and installed plastic dividers to discourage people from making a right turn off Market Street onto the freeway.

Leah Shahum, director of The City’s Bicycle Coalition, said officials have had to make many late improvements because planners didn’t realize how dangerous the intersection, which is the entrance and exit to U.S. Highway 101, would be. “We didn’t get it exactly right,” she said.

Installing the camera requires approval from the state Senate and the governor. It might not actually start taking pictures until 2009, but Ma said the improvement is much needed.

“We have done as much as we can here in The City to try and prevent people from taking the right turn, but it is still one of the most dangerous intersections in this city,” she said.

San Francisco has become a camera-rich city in recent years. In addition to dozens of cameras installed in high-crime areas, The City currently uses 23 red-light cameras to bust drivers who blow through intersections. Muni is planning to put cameras in the front of buses to catch motorists who double park on The City’s thoroughfares in legislation also authored by Ma.

State law is unclear about which specific violations can be enforced by an automated camera. The existing law implies that cameras are meant to catch motorists who run a red light, but the Octavia Boulevard camera would enforce an illegal right turn.

bbegin@examiner.com

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