Florida bill would OK statewide use of photo-red cameras

| 2/20/2008

A bill in the Florida House would allow cameras to be posted throughout the state to nab red-light runners. This is the fifth straight year legislation has been offered in the state to set statewide standards for red-light cameras.

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

The latest attempt to require local governments to adopt their own ordinances to put the program in place is scheduled to be considered during a House Infrastructure Committee meeting Thursday, Feb. 21. Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, is the author of the House version of the bill – HB351.

Violators would face $125 fines. No points would be tacked onto drivers’ records and insurance companies would not be notified.

Advocates say the bill is about safety and using 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.

Others point out some communities in the state already have cameras installed, but many others want the state to set standards before they erect their own cameras.

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

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor