Monday, February 10, 2014

Mixed results in Legislature's new study on red-light cameras

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 3:50 PM

A new report produced by a state agency on red-light cameras contains data that both critics and supporters of the legislation can champion.

Among the statistics that camera foes are focusing on is the fact that car crashes are actually up 12 percent in the 74 cities and five counties that use the system, which was approved by the state Legislature back in 2010. However, there were actually fewer fatalities or injuries in such incidents (specifically 37 deaths by car crashes in cities or counties with the cameras before the law was passed, and 19 since).

Currently St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County are operating red-light camera systems. Rear-end accidents in Hillsborough are down 26 percent since the state law was passed, and angle crashes are down 7 percent.

One of the biggest foes of the street-light cameras has been St. Petersburg-based state Senator Jeff Brandes, who just happens to be the chairman of the Transportation Committee in the Senate. Brandes told the Tampa Tribune on Monday that the study confirms his belief that the program "should be terminated."

“The study released today confirms that red light cameras are not the best remedy for improving safety,” stated Rep. Frank Artiles (R- Miami) at a press conference in Tallahassee. “The red light camera program really boils down to local governments profiteering and balancing their budgets on the backs of hard-working Floridians.”

Citizens who get caught on camera going through red lights are subject to a $158 fine.

The report tacitly acknowledges the growing controversy about the cameras (critics say they're simply a way for local governments to make money) by suggesting that the Legislature could consider additional options to make sure they're fair.

These options include:
-modifying the permitting process,
-establishing operational standards,
-enhancing data reporting, (such as analyzing how many accidents are occurring at a particular intersection)
-clarifying the use of red-light camera program revenues (such as requiring that revenues generated from fines go directly to traffic improvements).

Total revenue statewide from the cameras increased from $37.6 million in 2010-2011 to $118.9 million in 2012-2013.

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