Proposal regulating red light cameras gets green light from House committee

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A broad plan to ban red light cameras received the green light Thursday from a Florida House subcommittee. However, although the measure passed by a 10-3 vote by the Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee, the proposal may still have a tough road ahead.

In addition to preventing Florida municipalities and counties from installing additional red light cameras at unmonitored intersections after July 1, Rep. Frank Artiles’ THSS 14-01 would lower the penalty for violators caught on current red light cameras from $158 to $83, reports Jim Turner for the News Service of Florida.  

Local governments will be also be limited to imposing only a $25 surcharge on tickets to maintain existing systems.

“We are not removing the cameras that are already there,” Artiles told the News Service. “If it’s a safety issue what we’re doing is basically saying the local governments are not profiteering from it.”

The proposal is up resistance at its next legislative stage — the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Chair Rep. Ed Hooper voiced his support for the program on Thursday, saying local governments enacted red light cameras as safety measures.

“Should it get agendaed, there will be a discussion from every interested party,” Hooper said in response to the plan’s pending appearance before his subcommittee.

“There are some camera companies that should want to do that, some government representatives that will want to do that. I assure the members of this committee that debate will occur before any additional vote on this bill takes place.”

More than 100 Florida jurisdictions use traffic-light cameras, generating more than $100 million a year collectively through tickets. Department of Transportation officials directed local agencies in June to add a minimum of 0.4 seconds more to traffic light yellow intervals. Research discovered yellow lights were set a half-a-second shorter than state recommendations, resulting a potential doubling of the number of tickets.

Florida Police Chiefs Association representative Chris Connell, a Tallahassee Police Department Major, told the committee red light cameras improved safety and saved lives.

“Just here in Tallahassee alone, at some of the major intersections,” Connell said. “In any given month we see an up to 1,000 decrease in violations than what we saw at the beginning.”

“This tells us that driving habits have been changed,” he added.

Former Florida Highway Patrol officer Paul Henry argued the cameras only increased crashes, calling red light cameras a revenue-generating “scheme” for local governments.

The proposal in front of the committee is separate from another action by Artiles (HB 4009) seeking to turn off red light cameras across the state forever by eliminating the 2010 Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act.

Artiles’ bill, as well as its Senate companion (SB 144) filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes have yet to be scheduled for committee review.

Last session, a similar proposal failed to advance, but lawmakers included a provision in the omnibus transportation bill HB 7125 making it tougher for local governments to issue citations to drivers caught on camera making rights on red.

 

MOVE TO STOP NEW RED LIGHT CAMERAS GETS GREEN LIGHT via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

New red light cameras would no longer be allowed under a wide-ranging transportation proposal that received the go-ahead Thursday from a House subcommittee.

But a roadblock may be ahead for the measure, which was approved in a 10-3 vote by the Transportation & Highway Safety Subcommittee.

Besides no longer allowing municipalities and counties to install red light cameras at currently unmonitored intersections after July 1, the proposal (THSS 14-01) offered by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, would reduce the penalty for red light violators caught on camera from $158 to $83. Local governments also would only be allowed to impose a $25 surcharge on tickets to fund the existing systems.

“We are not removing the cameras that are already there,” Artiles said. “If it’s a safety issue what we’re doing is basically saying the local governments are not profiteering from it.”

More than 100 jurisdictions across the state use traffic-light cameras that collectively have generated more than $100 million a year through tickets. The state Department of Transportation in June directed local agencies to add at least 0.4 seconds to the yellow intervals on traffic lights. Research had found that yellow lights were set a half-a-second shorter than the recommended interval, which could result in a doubling of the number of tickets.

A similar proposal failed to advance last session, but lawmakers included a provision in an omnibus transportation bill (HB 7125) that is intended to make it tougher for local governments to issue tickets to drivers caught on camera turning right on red.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.