Tallahassee, Florida- July 19, 2012
If you've run a red light in Tallahassee, you may have received a ticket without a police officer pulling you over.
Paul Henry served as a Florida sheriff's deputy and state trooper for over 25 years. An opponent of red light cameras, Henry is now one of two lobbyists for the "Florida Campaign for Liberty".
Says Henry: "There's all sorts of problems with this system. We're trying to restore our constitutional republic through limited government, fiscal responsibility, free markets."
Here's how the red light cameras work. When a vehicle crosses the white stop line and enters the intersection after the light turns red, it triggers the camera. A review by the camera company and a Tallahassee Police Officer then determines if a ticket is issued.
Henry looked at data from red light cameras in four cities, now including Tallahassee.
Specifically, he looked at crash data a year and a half before and after cameras were installed at six city intersections.
Law enforcement began a month after the cameras were installed.
Henry's analysis found three intersections had a decrease in red light running crashes after the cameras, while three others had an increase, and he found four of six intersections had an overall increase in crashes.
"When you look at the injury and rear end crashes, those have gone way up. So these cameras are a net sum loss overall to the citizens of Tallahassee from a safety perspective," says Henry.
The real issue is you have to look at all the data. You can't just go pick three months here or eighteen months here or counting the time when only a certain number of cameras were installed.
While Henry looked at a year and a half, the city looked at one year's worth of data before and after camera enforcement began at the same six intersections.
Tallahassee official Michelle Bono responds: "The bottom line is, we believe people have changed their driving behavior."
According to the city's figures, overall crashes decreased 22 percent after the cameras compared to before them. At the Monroe and Tennessee intersection alone city leaders say red light runs they monitored decreased from 400 to 15 per day.
While Henry and the city's Michelle Bono say each other's data is skewed, there's no disagreement about the money involved with red light cameras.
If a Tallahassee Police Officer writes a ticket, the city collects 15 dollars. The city gets 75 dollars or five times that amount from a red light camera ticket. In fiscal year 2011 alone, the city collected more than 400-thousand dollars from red light camera tickets.
"There's a lot of money involved. There's a lot of money for these cities involved," says Henry.
Admits Bono: "There is a small revenue component."
Other differences also exist. When a TPD officer writes a ticket, he gives it the driver. A red light camera ticket goes to the registered owner of the vehicle. Any confusion must be cleared up in 60 days or the cost of the ticket jumps from $158 dollars to $271 dollars.
City leaders acknowledge there have been some relatively rare mechanical problems with the cameras.
One example is when lightning knocked out a camera at Monroe and Tennessee and missed a fatal St, Patrick's Day crash. While city leaders say the cameras save lives, Henry says innattentive and impaired drivers are the two main causes of red light running crashes.
He says cameras won't stop them.