Red light camera bill considered in Florida

| Thursday, March 31, 2005

If a Florida state lawmaker has his way, counties and cities in the state would be given the green light to install cameras at intersections to detect red light runners.

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, the measure would allow cameras on traffic signals that could photograph vehicles running red lights.

The effort is sure to face an uphill battle. House Speaker Allan Bense has called using cameras to snap pictures of vehicle license plates an intrusion by government. Despite his misgivings on the bill, he said he is willing to look at the legislation.

Reagan told The Bradenton Herald he understands his legislation is highly unlikely to pass, but his goal is to start the dialogue so that it may pass during future sessions. He said the bill was about safety and using technology in a helpful way.

Reagan’s bill would only allow cameras to photograph vehicles and their tag numbers. The registered owner of a vehicle photographed running a red light would be mailed a ticket and ordered to pay a $65 fine. No points would be added to the vehicle owner’s license.

The citing county or city would receive $5 of the fine, when paid, and the rest would go to fund state trauma services.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration endorses the cameras, which are in communities in 20 states and the District of Columbia, with still other states pursuing similar authorization.

But opponents are concerned the cameras would be the beginning of a trip down a slippery slope on which police could use the cameras to photograph drivers and monitor the movements of citizens.

In an effort to ease those concerns, Reagan included a provision in the bill that counties or cities cannot use the cameras to record “images of general traffic conditions or activities occurring within the intersection or surrounding areas.”

Reagan said the safety benefits of deterrence from running red lights would far outweigh privacy concerns, which he told the newspaper are unfounded.

HB1439 is before three House panels.

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