Florida bill would OK statewide use of photo-red cameras

| 12/27/2007

An effort renewed in the Florida Legislature would allow cameras to be posted throughout the state to nab red-light runners. It marks the fifth straight year that legislation has been offered in the state to authorize statewide use of red light cameras.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicle tags. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time. Florida law neither permits nor forbids the use of red-light cameras to fine violators, but local governments have been reluctant to post them because of privacy and other concerns.

The latest attempt to allow cities and counties to install the cameras at intersections is scheduled to be considered during a Senate Transportation Committee meeting Jan. 8.

Advocates say the bill is about safety and use of technology in a helpful way. They point out that in 2005 red-light runners were linked to 100 deaths and 9,000 crashes in Florida.

Opponents question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. They also say the process denies alleged violators the right to confront their accusers.

“The motivation of every player in this deal is economics. Whether it’s the local jurisdiction or the manufacturer, that’s not reasonable justification for doing that,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents.

In fact, a study paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed rear-end crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras, as motorists stopped abruptly at yellow lights to avoid tickets.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is the author of the Senate version of the bill – S816. Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, has offered a similar bill – HB351 – that is awaiting consideration in the House.

OOIDA issued a Call to Action asking its Florida members to contact members of the Florida Senate’s Transportation Committee before the Jan. 8 meeting. To read the Call to Action, which includes contact information for the committee members, click here.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor