Red light bill canned in Florida

| 5/16/2005

The Florida Legislature has put the brakes on any effort by cities and counties in the state to install cameras at intersections to bust red light runners.

Legislation introduced by Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, and Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, sought to allow cameras on traffic signals that could photograph vehicles running red lights. The effort never made it out of committee during the session that ended May 6.

The effort faced an uphill battle from the get-go. Early in the session, House Speaker Allan Bense called using cameras to snap pictures of vehicle license plates an intrusion by government.

Reagan told The Bradenton Herald he understood his legislation was highly unlikely to pass, but his goal was 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.

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

The citing county or city would have received $5 of the fine and the rest would have gone 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.

Reagan’s bill was HB1439. Wise’s bill was S2252.