Give red-light cameras the green
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2012 20:01
Should Florida lawmakers ban red-light cameras?
The fight over rights for red-light runners wages on in Florida. A Republican lawmaker is siding with some motorists who want to see intersections stripped of the red-light cameras that provide evidence to issue tickets to law-breakers.
Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood recently filed a measure to repeal the 2010 law that first allowed the use of red-light cameras. However, without a show of support in the Senate, the measure is fated to die without much effect, recalling a similar attempt in last year's legislative session to ban the cameras, which passed the House but not the Senate.
Critics argue that the cameras are used primarily as a means of generating revenue for cash-strapped cities and municipalities in Florida. The intersection of University Boulevard and Rouse Road, for instance, can cost student motorists a hefty $158 fine if they are caught on camera running the traffic stop. The fine increases to $262 if it is not paid within 30 days.
However, cities collecting revenue from these tickets divvy up the funds with the state and other important programs.
"Seventy-five dollars is retained by local governments, and $83 goes to the state," according to a March, 2011 report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "The state's share is further divided, with $70 going into general revenue; $10 to the Florida Health Department; and $3 to the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund."
Supporters of the red-light cameras have a lot riding on their side. The Orlando Sentinel's take on the issue cited a 33 percent reduction in crashes at Orlando's intersections that have the cameras. "The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released an analysis showing that red-light cameras reduced crashes and saved 159 lives between 2004 and 2008 in cities that installed them," according to the same editorial in the Sentinel.
Nonetheless, the red-light cameras' apparent effectiveness at preventing accidents is not without some minor pitfalls. One Longwood resident complained about receiving fines for making a right turn at a red light.
"I'm in favor of red-light runners getting tickets, but this twist of giving a ticket for turning on a red light is just wrong and not clear," Lynn VanHorne wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Sentinel. "I want to obey, but this law is too vague."
Cities should address this right-on-red problem by following Collier County's interpretation of the law, which says that cameras cannot be used for right turns made in a "careful and prudent manner," according to the Naples Daily News.
Red-light cameras are ultimately in the public interest. Aggressive drivers should slow down and heed the rules of the road. If they don't, they pay a fine. These fines can help fund vital state programs, like those that help victims of auto accidents.
A Google map of the red-light cameras around Florida and near the University of Central Florida's campus can be found at www.photoenforced.com/florida.