Florida lawmakers pursue reversal on red-light camera use

| Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A year after Florida lawmakers gave communities around the state the green light to pursue automated enforcement cameras, a legislative effort at the capitol would repeal the authority.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of automated enforcement. Conversely, 10 states have acted to prohibit use of the enforcement tool.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 4-2 to advance a bill that would force local governments in more than 50 cities and counties throughout Florida to yank down cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners. Since July 2010, localities have been authorized to post the cameras at intersections.

Violators face $158 fines. Revenue from fines is divvied up between the state and the cities and counties where the roads are located. Whatever local jurisdictions pay to companies to supply, maintain and operate the equipment comes out of their $75 cut.

Advocates say red-light cameras promote safety and using technology in a helpful way. They point to figures from 2008 that show 76 fatalities were caused by drivers who disregarded a traffic signal in Florida.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer says the revenue incentive is found in the analysis on the bill.

According to a bill analysis, from July 2010 through February 2011 the Department of Revenue received $8.4 million in red-light fines from 32 jurisdictions. Cameras posted in the Miami-Dade area netted $2.9 million during that time. Orange County amassed about $930,000 in revenue while Hillsborough County raised $870,000.

Critics also say the process denies alleged violators to confront their accusers.

The bill – S672 – is awaiting further consideration in the Senate Community Affairs Committee before it can come up for a Senate floor vote. A similar House bill – HB4087 – is in the House Appropriations Committee.

One more bill on the topic doesn’t call for an outright ban on the cameras, but it could reduce the number of tickets issued. Awaiting consideration in a House subcommittee, HB149 calls for lengthening yellow light durations based on traffic speed.

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

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.