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Mon January 7, 2013
Red Light Cameras Make Us Safer, State Says, As Campbell Files Bill To Bar Them
A South Florida lawmaker filed legislation Friday to repeal the law allowing the use of red light cameras, following a report earlier this week that says intersections where they're used have seen drops in crashes in most places.
Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, seeks to end the use of the cameras, saying they unfairly dole out tickets to people who can't defend themselves, noting that malfunctioning cameras can't be cross-examined.
Meanwhile, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles released a report Thursday showing that crashes were less frequent at red light camera intersections, based on data from 73 agencies. The report said accidents were down in intersections with cameras in 41 jurisdictions but up in such intersections in 11 jurisdictions.
The rest of the 73 jurisdictions where they are in use didn't have the data, and the state didn't say what the overall numbers were in the report, which was sent to lawmakers.
Since state law was changed in 2010 to allow local governments to use the cameras to catch red light runners, they've been under attack. A repeal effort was mounted starting the very next year in the Legislature.
Campbell's legislation (HB 91) would repeal the state law that authorizes their use. The law also sets out how the money from such tickets is allocated. Before there was a state law, some local jurisdictions used them, but there was considerable confusion about whether they were legal.
Even since the law has been passed, their use has continued to be challenged in court.
"The red light camera companies exploit victims to push Florida laws to gain millions," Campbell said in a statement. "People are presumed guilty by the picture of the camera. The corporations are the ones making the money."
The Florida League of Cities, however, said Friday that keeping the cameras is a top priority of local governments.
"Providing cities with the tools they need to keep residents safe is the Florida League of Cities’ No. 1 priority, and this technology has been proven to help authorities punish lawbreakers, reduce dangerous T-bone crashes and change the behavior of those drivers who selfishly choose to run red lights," the league said in a statement.
Local governments don't want to lose their share of the revenue from the $158 fines paid by people caught on red light cameras but also say their law enforcement budgets are strained and the cameras help them enforce laws they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
"While the data in this report suggests a significant positive effect on traffic safety, the Florida League of Cities believes the government closest to the people governs best, and nobody knows a city better than its residents," the league's statement said. "Some municipalities have determined that red light running is not a problem in their community and have chosen not to install traffic infraction detectors. Other cities, after holding public hearings and listening to concerned citizens, have determined that red light safety cameras will make their streets safer."
Campbell's bill is yet to be assigned to a committee.
David Royse reports for the News Service of Florida.
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