Garcia Proposes Red Light Camera Repeal

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL - A law passed just last year that lets local governments install red light cameras and ticket drivers based on the pictures would be repealed under a bill filed by Sen. Rene Garcia.

The law is an “unwarranted, big-brother initiative,” Garcia, R-Hialeah, said in a statement Tuesday announcing he had filed the bill (SB 672).

If it were to pass, the measure would require cameras be removed from state roads by next July. At least 50 communities in Florida had red light cameras last year.

The main objections have been that the cameras violate drivers’ civil liberties, a fear of wrongful ticketing, and that they gouge unsuspecting residents. It took eight years to pass the measure over those objections.

“We need to ensure that citizens are treated fairly, and this bill will protect Floridians from intrusive snapshots and inaccurate ticketing,” Garcia said. “Local governments have used these cameras to tax their citizens under the disguise of safety.”

His move to repeal the law, signed by Gov. Charlie Crist last summer, may have a tough time with talk of property tax cuts and a deficit at the state level. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference projected last year that the bill would bring $29 million this year, and nearly $100 million next year into state coffers, and would provide about $75 million to local governments over two years.

The repeal proposal puts Garcia at odds with the insurance industry, which says the cameras reduce fatalities.

A study released this month by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that red light cameras saved 159 lives over a four year period ending in 2008 in a study of 14 major U.S. cities.

"The cities that have the courage to use red light cameras despite the political backlash are saving lives," institute president Adrian Lund said.

The researchers found that during the 2004-2008 period, per capita red light-related fatal crashes dropped 35 percent over a previous four year period during which they didn’t have cameras, a bigger drop than in cities that didn’t add cameras during the time.

The insurance industry group study has been dismissed by opponents of the red light cameras. In fact, Garcia pointed to a National Motorists Association study that found cameras didn’t reduce the number of accidents.

Melissa Wandall believes they do save lives. She spent years pushing for the law, called the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program after her husband, who was killed by a red light runner. Complaints about intrusions on liberty or inconvenience are lost on her; the loss of civil rights doesn’t compare to the death of her husband, she said.

“If we’ve got a system that’s going to save lives, people have to stop complaining,” Wandall said in an interview Tuesday. “My daughter will never know her dad because of a red light runner. This is common sense. This is not hurting anybody. Red light running hurts people.”

According to the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2008 there were 76 deaths in crashes in Florida where someone ran a red light. That’s about 3 percent of all fatal accidents, the sixth highest cause of traffic deaths in the state.

The law passed last year pre-empted red light camera penalties to the state, rather than allowing local communities to decide what the penalties would be on a town-by-town basis. A state law also was necessary, backers said, because the courts were increasingly finding that local laws were invalid. State law required an officer to observe a red light runner to have a traffic violation, so cities were getting around that by enforcing code violations. Those code violation fines were invalidated in a couple of Florida cities, boosting the argument for a statewide uniform red light penalty enforceable by camera.

Motorists pay more than $150 if caught on camera running a red light.

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  • by bob walker Location: Boynton on Mar 13, 2011 at 12:10 PM
    Let Florida voters decide if we ban the red light cameras
  • by James on Feb 9, 2011 at 06:25 PM
    I have just learned from a red light ticket receiver who went to court that if you refuse to STIPULATE THE EVIDENCE, you will not be fined. The reason they need for you to stipulate the evidence is because there was not an officer to write the ticket, and Florida law requires for you to be able to cross-examine your witness (police officer who wrote you). So basically, the unlawful use of the red light cameras for enforcement is being allegedly "CORRECTED" by such lousy stipulation. Wow ! The City of Tallahassee is really worried about your rights huh? Refuse the evidence as admissible !! Walk out without paying!! Try it out. They are ASKING you if you want a ticket while in court. Just say NO !!!
  • by Mr Whitehead on Feb 9, 2011 at 02:37 PM
    Steve. You are right and in Tallahassee there is an actual video of the entire event. Not much to dispute except driver. But they should cite the owner, its his car.
  • by Steve Location: tlh on Feb 9, 2011 at 09:13 AM
    The photos include a shot of the car AND the light, both before and after the stop bar. THe photos are then reviewed by a police officer before the ticket goes out, with the photo included. They won't send out a ticket that shows a car going through a green light, and if they do, you simply bring it to their attention and they will cancel it.
  • by CJ Location: Tallahassee on Feb 9, 2011 at 08:22 AM
    I don't get the civil liberties complaints. You are in a public place. I can stand on a corner with a video camera and record everyone that drives by and then go post it on YouTube for the world to see. That's what's commonly meant by public. Also, if a cop sees you run a red light or a camera sees you run a red light then what's the difference. Let's assume the thing makes a mistake. You get to do the same thing as when a cop makes a mistake. You go to court and challenge it. No system is perfect but let's not throw proven technology out the window without at least trying to make it work.
  • by Sue Location: Tallahassee on Feb 9, 2011 at 06:56 AM
    I don't have an issue with the red light cameras because I do believe it serves a purpose. People tend to be more cautious if they know they'll get a ticket if caught BUT that being said I think they should use said money collected from these tickets to support local law enforcement which currently its not at all. Some of the smaller county law enforcement could use that money for new cars, better radios.....Those may not be issues here but they are in other counties.
  • by CaptainDisbelief Location: Tally on Feb 9, 2011 at 05:37 AM
    Steve, this is an admitted problem with the cameras. The sensors are sometimes wrong. I've had the cameras snap photos of me when I was the only car in the intersection.
  • by Steve Location: tlh on Feb 8, 2011 at 07:52 PM
    Posted by: Old Soldier Location: "Bottom line is people should slow down and STOP at red lights...Period" Really? Should they really STOP for red lights? Wow, maybe you should run for office, then tell people they should STOP for red lights. Problem solved. Unforutnately, back here on planet earth, people don't STOP for red lights, even if we tell them they should, so we need to have laws and penalties to protect the rest of us. If the registered owner of a vehicle can get a parking ticket when whoever they let drive their vehicle parks it illegally, then why can't they get a similar ticket when someone drives their vehicle through a red light? Posted by: e "i have seen these cameras flashing while the light is green." Really? The red light photo shows the car and the traffic light in the same photo, both before the stop bar and after. Try looking at the correct light when you see the light flash.
  • by watcher Location: nearby on Feb 8, 2011 at 04:36 PM
    If the red light cameras get outlawed Green Cove Springs will be very upset as they just installed their "moneymaker" this past week.
  • by Mike Location: Tallahassee on Feb 8, 2011 at 03:29 PM
    Red Light Cameras = POLICE STATE!
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