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DHSMV review of red-light cameras failed to include crash increases

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Red-light cameras appear to have little or no effect on safety in many areas in Florida, according to a new report by WTSP 10 Investigates. But the state failed to include that information in its annual review of the program.

Most of Florida cities and counties with the controversial RLC-monitored intersections have reported crash statistics that have remained either steady or increased since putting in cameras.

Although the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) compiled the unflattering data in 2014, the agency chose not to include the increases as part of its annual evaluation of the state’s RLC program, calling it “inconclusive.”

WTSP’s Noah Pransky reported in January that even though the DHSMV performed a review, for the first time last year the agency failed to address crash stats.

However, public records show the agency actually did perform the analysis, and simply chose not to include it in reports.

Twenty-four of 49 cities and counties recording crash stats last year reported “sideswipe” crashes increased at RLC intersections since installing the cameras. Five municipalities reported no change, while only 20 reported decreases since installing the cameras.

In addition, 30 of 47 municipalities reported “rear-end” collisions actually increased at RLC intersections after installing cameras; only 14 reported a decrease, and three reported no change.

Meanwhile, most cities and counties reported that crashes at their intersections not monitored by cameras have dropped in recent years.

“I don’t think you can make a statement to the public about the safety value of the red light cameras based on the data we have before us,” DHSMV employee David Westberry told Pransky.

DHSMV representatives said they omitted the data because it was “inconclusive.”

In the past two years of RLC programs, journalists discovered many local governments simply failed to provide data. A few – such as Lakeland – ignored the mandated state surveys altogether, without consequences.

All the while, those cities continue to ticket tens of thousands of motorists every year.

“We are raising $100 million a year and we can’t look constituents in the eye and tell them we’re making them any safer,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes told reporters.

The St. Petersburg Republican has twice tried unsuccessfully to shut down RLCs in Florida.

During the 2015 legislative session, Brandes will once again propose changes to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act – which authorizes RLCs – to include penalties for those cities and counties that fail to provide the required reporting.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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