Florida bill would reverse ticket camera rule

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, January 05, 2012

About 18 months after Florida lawmakers gave communities around the state the green light to pursue automated enforcement cameras, a legislative effort in Tallahassee would repeal the authority.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of automated enforcement. Conversely, 12 states have acted to prohibit use of the enforcement tool.

Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, has filed a bill to force local governments in more than 50 cities and counties throughout Florida to take 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.

A similar effort a year ago narrowly won House approval, but it died in the Senate.

Advocates say red-light cameras promote safety and the use of technology in a helpful way. At the time the new law took effect, they pointed 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. Critics say advance warning signs on all approaches to intersections equipped with automated enforcement would virtually solve the red-light running problem – in Florida and elsewhere.

The bill – HB4177 – is awaiting consideration.

Another bill addresses the use of red-light cameras in the state. The House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee voted to advance a bill that stops short of an outright ban on the cameras, but it could reduce the number of tickets issued.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, HB33 calls for lengthening yellow light durations based on traffic speed. The standard would be three seconds at 25 mph, increasing by about one-half second for each additional 5 mph.

In addition, intersections with a posted speed more than 55 mph on approach would be required to alert drivers.

The standards sought in HB33 would be required for all traffic lights by the end of this year. The cost for state and local governments to meet the requirement is estimated at about $1.1 million.

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