BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    






           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE       BILL NO: sb 1534
          SENATOR MARK DESAULNIER, CHAIRMAN              AUTHOR:  harman
                                                         VERSION: 5/1/12
          Analysis by:  Carrie Cornwell                  FISCAL:  no
          Hearing date:  May 8, 2012





          SUBJECT:

          Video recorders in taxicabs

          DESCRIPTION:

          This bill permits video recorders to block the windshield of a 
          licensed taxicab.

          ANALYSIS:

          Existing eavesdropping law prohibits, without the expressed 
          consent of all parties involved,  the audio recording of 
          communication carried on in circumstances that may reasonably 
          indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be 
          confined to the parties. 

          Existing law prohibits a person from driving any motor vehicle 
          with any object or material placed, displayed, installed, 
          affixed, or applied upon the windshield or the side windows 
          adjacent to the driver.  Existing law makes exceptions for the 
          following:

               Rearview mirrors;

               Sunvisors that are not mounted on the windshield glass;

               Electronic toll communication devices (e.g., FasTrak 
              transponders) or video event recorders affixed to the center 
              uppermost portion of the interior of the windshield within 
              an area that is not greater than five inches square;

               Transparent material applied to the top most portion of 
              the windshield (i.e., tinting);

               Stickers (e.g., parking decals), global positioning 




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              systems (GPS), and video event recorders that are placed or 
              mounted on the windshield in the seven-inch square in the 
              lower corner farthest removed from the driver or in the 
              five-inch square in the lower corner nearest the driver but 
              outside of the airbag deployment zone.

          Existing law defines "video event recorders" that can be placed 
          in small spaces in the two lower windshield corners or at the 
          center top of the windshield as a video recorder that 
          continuously records video, audio, and G-force levels, but saves 
          video only when triggered by an unusual motion or crash or when 
          operated by the driver.  Existing law restricts video event 
          recorders to storing no more than 30 seconds of footage before 
          and after an event, permits the registered owner to disable a 
          video event recorder, and requires posted visible notice in the 
          vehicle that it is equipped with a video event recorder.
           
          This bill  :
          
          1.Permits a video recorder that is installed in a taxicab for 
            purposes of routine video monitoring to block the windshield 
            or side windows of that taxi.  

          2.Defines a "video recorder" as a device that continuously 
            records both audio and video.

          3.Defines "routine video monitoring" as video recording by a 
            video or electronic imaging system designed to record regular 
            and ongoing operations, including mobile in-car video systems.
          
          COMMENTS:

           1.Purpose  .  The author introduced this bill at the request of 
            the Taxicab Paratransit Association and the City of Los 
            Angeles to provide legal authorization to place cameras on the 
            windshields or partially blocking the windshields of taxicabs. 
             The author notes that several cities, including Los Angeles, 
            San Francisco, Santa Monica, and San Diego, have mandated that 
            taxicab operators licensed to operate in their jurisdiction 
            install approved security cameras to address and deter 
            assaults on taxi drivers.  Proponents point out the dangerous 
            position taxi drivers can find themselves in and assert that 
            these cameras need to record continuously in order to provide 
            a safer environment for drivers.  Existing law's prohibition 
            on these cameras in taxicabs' windshields puts many hundreds 
            of taxicab drivers in California at risk of operating without 




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            a significant security device to deter assault.

           2.Obstructing the driver's view  .  This bill authorizes a video 
            recorder of any size to be placed anywhere on or blocking the 
            view through the windshield or the front windows of a taxicab. 
              The bill, therefore, makes it legal to obstruct a taxicab 
            driver's view of the street, other vehicles, pedestrians, and 
            other features of his or her driving environment.  Due to 
            traffic safety concerns, existing law restricts other such 
            devices, including toll collection transponders, video event 
            recorders, and GPS, to a seven-inch square in the lower corner 
            farthest removed from the driver, a five-inch square in the 
            lower corner nearest the driver, or a five-inch square at the 
            center top of the windshield.  In order to minimize driver 
            distraction and visual obstruction, the committee may wish to 
            amend this bill to require that the video recorders authorized 
            by this bill be placed in any of these same locations.
          
           3.These cameras are in use now  .  As the author notes, these 
            cameras are currently in use in taxicabs in jurisdictions 
            around the state, and in most cases are likely placed such 
            that they violate California law prohibiting any object from 
            being on or blocking the view through the windshield.  This 
            bill would legalize those existing video recorders, some of 
            which are mandated under local taxicab regulations.

          4.Previous legislation  .  AB 1942 (Fletcher), Chapter 458, 
            Statutes of 2010, permitted the placement of video event 
            recorders in any of three specified locations on the 
            windshield of a vehicle.  Due to concerns about the video and 
            audio recording of occupants of vehicles, that bill included 
            various limitations, as follows: 

             a.   AB 1942 limits recordings to 30 seconds before and 30 
               seconds after an event, such as an accident.  This bill 
               contemplates storing continuous video for an unlimited 
               amount of time and places no restrictions on who can view 
               the recordings.  Taxi drivers who oppose this bill note 
               that while security cameras in taxis have traditionally 
               been for the purpose of protecting taxi drivers from 
               assaults or robberies, this bill appears designed for the 
               monitoring of taxi drivers themselves.  They describe this 
               as a recent practice that has been done without the consent 
               or even the knowledge of most taxi drivers or their 
               passengers, and further assert that taxi company management 
               has used this footage to harass and intimidate drivers for 




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               reasons other than safety.  They are concerned that this 
               bill opens the door to further abuse and intimidation by 
               taxicab company management and possibly regulatory 
               personnel.  The committee may wish to amend this bill to 
               permit only law enforcement to review the video recorded 
               and only for public safety purposes, including 
               investigation of a crime.  

             b.   To address concerns of commercial drivers, AB 1942 
               requires that an employee may receive unedited copies of 
               recordings made, prescribes that recordings made are the 
               property of the registered owner or lessee of the vehicle, 
               and allows the registered owner of the vehicle to turn off 
               the video event recorder.  Taxi drivers are not typically 
               employees, but sometimes own the cabs they drive and 
               sometimes rent or lease them from others.  The concerns of 
               taxi drivers could be addressed through amendments as they 
               were for commercial drivers in AB 1942.  The committee may 
               wish to consider amendments that permit a taxi driver to 
               turn off the video recorder and that permit the taxicab 
               driver to request unedited copies of recordings. 

             c.   Under the Penal Code, audio recording generally requires 
               the expressed consent of all parties to a conversation.  
               Such consent is difficult to achieve with passengers in a 
               vehicle who change with each trip the vehicle makes.  To 
               address this issue, AB 1942 required that a vehicle 
               equipped with a video event recorder have posted in it 
               visible notice that it is equipped with a video event 
               recorder.  Such notice inside the taxi may be of little use 
               to providing a taxi customer with actual notice once he or 
               she is inside of the taxicab.    The committee may wish to 
               amend this bill to require posting of a notice on the 
               inside and the outside of the taxicab to inform passengers 
               that their conversations inside the taxi are recorded. 

          POSITIONS:  (Communicated to the committee before noon on 
          Wednesday, May 2, 2012)

               SUPPORT:  Taxicab Paratransit Association of California 
          (sponsor)
                         City of Los Angeles (sponsor)
                         San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
                         One individual                

               OPPOSED:  Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance




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                         San Francisco Taxi Cab Drivers Association
                         Six individuals