Red Light Running to Get More Expensive for Florida Drivers

Even supporters fear higher fines won't curb bad behavior on the roads. Motorist Sal Secondo says at least two or three times a day he sees other drivers run red lights.

"It is a real hazard and I've come very close to having some serious accidents, even recently," says Sal.

Secondo supports proposals to more than double the fine to $125 for first-time red light runners, one of several proposals pending at the capitol that would increase penalties on bad drivers.

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians blow through intersections every year. More than 295,000 were convicted of red light running last year alone. The proposed legislation could bring in as much as $250 million additional in higher fines to help pay for such things as trauma centers, motorcycle safety and Alzheimer's research.

Police support the effort to crack down on bad drivers, but question whether it will help if motorists don't know the fines went up.

"The challenge that we have is getting the word out to the public because if John Q. Citizen knows that the fine will be doubled if he runs a red light, that may be a deterrent,” says Lt. Col. Ken Howes of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Some new fines could go up to $1,000 if a death is involved. The governor isn't sure that's practical.

"Way above some people's ability to pay and I'm not sure that's the answer either," says Gov. Jeb Bush.

And even supporters question whether big fines will make people safer drivers.

"It seems like it's one of those things where no matter what the penalties are, it's really not going to do much to deter the bad behavior,” says Secondo.

But with a need for new revenue sources and a need to cut down on the more than 2,800 deaths a year caused by lousy drivers, the proposed fine increases could speed through the capitol this year.

If the bills imposing higher fines for traffic violations pass, they would raise up to almost $50 million a year to help support trauma centers at hospitals throughout Florida.