Florida Legislators Try to Blow Up Red Light Camera Program

Categories: Politics

Florida's legislators are back on the job now that 2014 is rolling along, and one of the first pieces of business on the agenda is a big one: red light cameras. I know they're a pain, you know they're a pain, and -- surprisingly -- some lawmakers actually have our backs. A new bill floating through the legislative process would seriously knee-cap the red light setup -- that is, if the proposal has any luck pushing past opposition.

State legislators passed the red light camera ticketing program four years ago, and ever since, the flashing beacons at busy intersections have been printing money for the state and local municipalities.

As it currently stands, tickets currently cost drivers $158. According to TheNewspaper.com, last year the 77 local governments that run the program issued 1,094,106 tickets, racking up $173 million in revenues. About $62 million of that went to local government, with the rest of the spoils split between the state and the for-profit companies running the cams.

The idea is that local governments are pulling too much money off the system -- a system they're enforcing.

The new legislation cuts local out of the equation. Instead of $158, the tickets under the new bill would be capped at $108. The state would keep $83 of the fine, and the locals can levy a $25 charge for the camera vendor. None of the pie would be left for state and county governments.

Is that fair? No, according to the cities. In the Florida Current, Casey Cook, a lobbyist with the Florida League of Cities, argues that there have already been some tweaks to the red light system and that we need to wait until a significant amount of time has passed to see if they're working.

"The Florida Legislature just made some pretty significant changes to the red light cameras," Cook tells the Current. "A lot of these changes didn't go into effect until the fourth quarter of 2013."

Also: "For most if not all of our cities, that $25 wouldn't cover the cost of the program," Cook says.

So what are the chances we'll get rid of these moneymaking ass pains? Eh. Previous efforts to dismantle the program have been swatted before. That said, the shift might be occurring. In addition to this bill, two other pieces of legislation have been filed this session to strike down red light cams outright.

Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.




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4 comments
John Shannon
John Shannon

This article decides it for me: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/ecd7d66f#/ecd7d66f/60 Shows how if safety was the goal, the length of the yellow light would be increased; and traffic engineers would use a formula that includes all drivers of all situations - called "the Formula" or Formula 1, "unsimplified." But apparently it decreases traffic flow. Anyway, the article explains how they opted for the worse case scenario for anyone interested in not paying fines for running red lights: quick yellows, long all-reds; and they install them at intersections that were made for the Formula 1 due to the many ways a driver might approach it, wanting to go left, or right, etc. It's quite a set-up, but again, the deniability comes in the form of desiring increased traffic flow.

directionofdesire
directionofdesire

Excellent article, Brian. (Traffic Tech Today) Makes it pretty clear what choices are available to traffic engineers. Increase yellow interval for ultimate safety. Decrease for citation profits and increased traffic flow; and also, erroneously, as a strike against “drivers disrespecting the yellow.” Sounds like the prevailing paradigm is one that suggests that there are bad people out there that need to pay for slowing the rest of down. I wish, however, we used the “unsimplified” formula No.1, which very sensibly allows for “all drivers in all situations to enter the intersection legally.” But that makes too much sense, I guess. Better to think in terms of good guys and bad guys? Well if you are breaking rule No.1 as delineated in this article: “professional engineers comply with physics,” then you are the bad guy.

Alex Johnson
Alex Johnson

They have no problem fining someone almost 3 days pay for not coming to a complete stop at a red light, and now they are crying about their profit margin. Didn't hose hypocrites say it was all about public safety?

ceccareb
ceccareb

That lots of money for enforcing a local ordinance, expected though because the ordinance enforces a engineering standard which prohibits drivers from obeying the laws of physics.   

Oct/Nov 2013 Cover Story of Traffic Technology International

 http://traffictechnologytoday.com/magazine.php.

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