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Traffic Safety Debate Continues Over Red-light Cameras

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Posted on February 19, 2014

Florida lawmakers plan on pushing forward a measure aimed at repealing the state’s red-light traffic camera law utilizing information gathered from a study in connection with the Legislature’s non-partisan policy office to support the overall effort. In general, supporters of the repeal effort claim that the lights provide no measurable reduction of auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, or bicycle accidents – and that red-light cameras actually increase the frequency of traffic accidents at some intersections and remain in place due to an emphasis on municipal revenues over actual traffic safety.

State Report Claims Cameras Do Not Improve Traffic Intersection Safety

The report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability revealed there were actually fewer fatalities, but more car accidents, at electronically monitored intersections. The report also found that fines issued due to implementation of the technology cost Florida motorists nearly $119 million in 2013. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, spoke on Monday February 10th and said the study backs his contention that the state’s primary red-light camera law hasn’t reduced the occurrence of auto accidents, and that local governments are using the program to fuel their budgets.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who has also filed a measure (HB 4009) to repeal the 2010 law, explained that if legislators are unwilling to support repeal, state lawmakers should enact the series of recommendations included in the legislative study.

In its conclusion, the study recommends that local governments demonstrate an explicit need for increased safety measures at each potential intersection where cameras would be installed. It also recommends that local municipalities ought to be required to adhere to set standards on the length of yellow lights and that any revenue local governments generate from the cameras be restricted only for purposes of directly improving public and traffic safety. Artiles also proposes that the amount local governments can fine be reduced from $158 to $83.

Counterpoints Contend that Accidents are Down, Driver Behaviors are Modified

The Florida League of Cities support the use of red-light cameras and cite certain counterpoints of their success in reducing traffic accidents. In a release from its lobbyist Casey Cook, the League maintained that the cameras do improve safety and it called the study “biased and inconsistent.” The release read:

Dating back as far as 2010, other supporters of the use of red-light cameras have leaned on information presented by Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the primary provider of red-light cameras in Florida. One ATS employee cited a company data point by explaining:

“Nine out of 10 vehicles that have received a red-light running violation haven’t received a second. There’s no question that driver behavior changes. While individuals might not like getting a ticket, it makes them more aware.”

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