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Red-Light Camera Ban Creeps To A Halt In The Florida Legislature

Traffic Safety Ink/flickr

Red-light cameras appear to be safe for another year in Florida. A bid to get rid of them crept to a halt this week in the Florida Legislature.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, knew his bill was in trouble, so he suggested changes. He proposed an amendment that would prevent cameras from ticketing drivers who make right turns on red “if the vehicle is traveling less than 15 miles per hour, is not involved in a crash, and no pedestrians are in the crosswalk.”

Groups like the Florida League of Cities and Florida Police Chiefs Association argued against the recommendation.

“Our concern is the message we’re sending to our drivers when we set a speed that is going to trigger a red-light camera violation review in the first place,” said Ray Black with the police chiefs. “Are we setting two standards when the law says you must come to a complete stop?”

Miami Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman told lawmakers the camera technology is a tool to help police.

“The way we pick our intersections is formatted by FDOT and law enforcement data that shows dangerous intersections with violators running red lights only,” said Heyman. 

The committee voted against the amendment and, after hearing public testimony, decided to postpone a vote on the bill.

After the meeting, Brandes told reporters he’s not giving up his efforts to repeal the four-year-old law allowing red light cameras.

“What you’re seeing is municipalities that are addicted to the funds,” Brandes said. “It’s become a back door tax increase.”

A similar bill in the House allows new red light cameras only if traffic-engineering studies show they’re needed.

But it may not matter as cities make their own decisions.  Tampa, St. Petersburg, Palm Bay and Margate are among those that have voted recently to end their red light camera programs.