The debate over red light cameras in Florida has been raging since their inception, and rightfully so. It’s a complicated topic with no obvious or easy answers. For example, do they help to keep us safe? Is it legal to allow a private third party to assist in prosecuting citizens? Or are they just a way for local governments and their contractors to make money?
There is no doubt that red light cameras make money for local governments. That’s a given. In fact, just the city of Tampa alone brought in an extra $2 million in 2016 thanks to red light tickets. That same data reveals that 65,000 people were ticketed in Tampa while Florida, as a whole, ticketed 1.2 million people in 2016.
So it’s clear that the cameras are functioning, but are they working to keep our cities safer?
Do red light cameras make roads safer?
Well, surprisingly, the answer might be no. A recent FDOT study found crashes actually went up 10 percent at intersections that added cameras. And overall, since cameras have been implemented in Florida, crashes are up in almost every category. Including:
- Rear-end collisions were up 11.41 percent.
- Angle crashes were up 6.72 percent.
- Accidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other “non-motorists” were down 19.64 percent.
- Collisions involving vehicles running red lights were down 3.14 percent.
- And fatalities doubled.
Of course, these things are not necessarily causational, but they do show that red light cameras aren’t keeping us safer. It should also be noted that miles driven by Florida drivers increased 8% in the same amount of time. But the same conclusion stands, red light cameras do not reduce accidents in any dramatic fashion.
The Debate over Keeping or Ending Red Light Cameras in Florida
Not all cities still have red light cameras in Florida. In fact, five cities in Pinellas County have gotten rid of them, including St. Petersburg.
Now, Florida lawmakers are trying to decide if the rest of the state should shut down their cameras also.
In fact, we are halfway there since the Florida House already voted to ban red light cameras. And if the bill makes it through the Senate, it will be lights out for Florida’s red light cameras.
Likewise, the Florida Supreme Court is set to hear arguments for and against the cameras in February of 2018 in which they will also seek to set a precedent on the legalities of these ticketing devices and the methods under which they operate.
The central argument rests on determining whether using the intersection cameras is illegally delegating a law enforcement function to a third party, which is illegal under Florida law.
However, not everyone feels that the cameras should be removed. Representatives from Orlando asked lawmakers to keep the cameras in place, stating that other data shows that they are improving road safety. Additionally, the Florida League of Cities thinks that local governments should be allowed to make their own rules and polices about the use of red light cameras under the Florida’s “home rule” policy.
It should be noted that similar bans have failed in the Senate in the past.
Red Light Camera are Scams
Some Floridians believe that red light cameras are nothing but a moneymaking scheme for cities and other local governments. Additionally, once must consider what influence the makers and operates of the camera have in this argument, especially since 49% of all the money earned from tickets goes to the vendors.
CBS 10 News in Tampa claims that their investigative reporter exposed red light camera abuses that may prove that it’s a money making scam. According to their report, they exposed how some Florida cities were reducing the length of their yellow lights after installing red light cameras. Obviously, this would be with the intent of increasing the number of people caught in the camera, but it also brings up serious ethical and safety concerns. This report, the claim, has helped encourage some to get rid of the cameras.
As far as the permanent removal of red light cameras from all of Florida for good, we will just have to wait to see what the Florida Senate and Supreme Court have to say first.
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