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Jeff Brandes proposes major red light camera reform

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State Sen. Jeff Brandes has proposed a series of amendments to an omnibus transportation bill that could have a drastic effect on red light cameras throughout the state.

The amendments to Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles’ SB 1184 would reserve red light cameras as a last- resort safety measure at intersections prone to traffic accidents.

“These cameras were initially proposed as programs designed to improve safety, but they’ve turned into nothing more than a back-door tax increase on Florida drivers,” Brandes said. “These programs collect over $100 million annually from Floridians, yet the data shows us that they do not improve safety on our roadways. The reforms proposed today are designed to actually improve the safety of our roadways, and they are based on proven engineering and research.”

The proposed changes are based on recommendations from the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The amendments represent a drastic step back for red-light cameras that, as of now, have the green light in localities who choose to use them.

Locally, St. Pete has stopped using red-light cameras but they are still up in running in some neighboring communities like Gulfport.

The measure would require local governments to establish proven safety precautions like longer yellow light times and better intersection signage before moving forward with efforts to install red-light cameras.

If the intersection was still at high risk for traffic accidents, an engineering study would be required before determining whether a red-light camera is warranted.

The amendments to the bill would also allow the state to withhold red-light camera revenue from local governments that do not meet the established criteria. That would include submitting crash data to the state from intersections where cameras are installed.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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