Editorial: St. Pete’s red light camera obsession borders on “ridiculous”

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St. Petersburg City Council’s fixation on Red-Light Cameras “borders on the ridiculous,” says Tuesday’s Tampa Tribune editorial board.

Debating yellow light lengths at camera-monitored intersections, and refunding fines assessed to drivers who misjudge those lights, are becoming an “obsession” in City Hall.

The Tribune editorial board wants to remind city leaders that those drivers entered intersections as they turn red.

When faced with a yellow light, violators speed up instead of slowed down.

Singling out Councilmember Wengay Newton, the piece urges him in particular to let go of this obsession; it says there is just too much evidence showing RLC’s make roads safer.

Crashes at the 10 intersections monitored with cameras are down by 6 percent, and accidents from running red lights are down by 42 percent. Citations have dropped as well, down 27 percent from the inception of RLCs last year.

The same results have been found statewide, as Tampa expands its RLC program.

An unfair appeals process and mistakenly shortened yellow lights, as well as a system not yet perfect, is no reason to scrap the whole program, says the Tribune. It is part of a “natural evolution” leading to a fair process.

St. Petersburg is not the only place with an overwhelming RLC preoccupation; State Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced a bill in Tallahassee to repeal RLC programs throughout Florida. Brandes’ proposal not only ignores evidence, but also “smacks of Tallahassee lawmakers dictating their will on cities and counties.”

The Legislature gave local officials the right to use RLCs, now at about 100 municipalities, with each location facing questions on safety, fairness and  claims that the motives were making money.

With decreased revenues as the number of citations drops, the extra money argument is losing its appeal. In all, the Tribune says RLCs should stay.

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.