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Florida Lawmakers Wrangle Over Red-Light Cameras

As Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys, we note that one of the most common causes of serious and fatal crashes is red-light running.
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Red-light cameras were born of the idea that because this action is so dangerous, there had to be a way to enforce the law, even if we couldn’t station a police officer at every intersection. The cameras, which are now used by some 77 county and city governments across the state, work by sensing violations, snapping photographs of the incident and then mailing a ticket to the vehicle owner.

While proponents say these devices save lives, opponents say they are nothing more than a revenue source for local governments, and there is even some evidence to suggest they heighten the crash risk at some intersections.

It was for this reason that the Florida Senate Transportation chairman has been trying to repeal the state’s red light camera law. However, the repeal was recently tabled amid fierce opposition.

Instead, members of the House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee unanimously green-lighted an amendment to HB 7005 that would allow for the installation of new red-light cameras at various intersections, but only if the decision was supported by traffic engineering research.

In February, both the chairman and another representative from Miami, who sponsored HB 7005, held a press conference to draw attention to a report issued by the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability. The non-partisan group found that while there were fewer fatalities at intersections where red-light cameras were installed, there were more crashes. There were almost 1,200 more crashes at intersections with cameras, but 18 fewer deaths.

The fines issued by the cameras totaled nearly $120 million last year alone.

Those who want to scrap the devices say they aren’t doing anything to improve safe, and instead serve as a way to line government coffers.

HB 7005, lawmakers say, is something of a compromise, as it wouldn’t entirely get rid of the program, but it would create a greater degree of accountability for cities and counties that use it. The bill would also require that 70 percent of all funds generated would have to be funneled toward traffic safety initiatives.

Nationally, the Wall Street Journal reports that after a decade of growth, the number of communities using the cameras dipped by about six percent in 2012, down to 508. A total of seven states ban them altogether. In addition to Florida lawmakers’ efforts to disallow the devices, Ohio legislators are exploring the same.

A 2005 study by the Federal Highway Administration analyzed crash statistics in seven cities that used the devices. What they found was that while right-angle crashes decreased by 25 percent, rear-end collisions increased by 15 percent. Right-angle crashes tend to be more severe, so the number of fatalities decreased.

Is the trade-off worth it? Florida lawmakers will soon decide.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Are Red-Light Cameras Actually Causing Accidents? March 18, 2013, By John Moore Williams, esuranceblog.com

Bill pushes for restrictions to red-light camera program, March 24, 2014, By Matt Galka, Capitol News Service

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