Red-light cameras: Have they become right turn ticket traps?

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Only a few weeks after state Sen. Jeff Brandes requested a study into shortened yellow lights at Florida red light cameras (RLC), now Florida has to deal with accusations of “rolling right” ticket traps.

The issue is that otherwise safe drivers are unfairly getting ticketed for making right turns at RLCs.

Noah Pransky of WTSP, after originally reporting on the shortened yellow light controversy, now turned his sights to the “stricter than intended” enforcement of rolling stops at legal right turn on red lights.

The state law standardizing RLC laws, called the Mark Wandall Act, instructs officers not to give tickets to drivers making rolling right turns in a “careful and prudent” manner. That wording leaves it open to interpretation of exactly what is “careful and prudent.”

Now, a group of people ticketed because of RLCs are saying that the punishment — a $158 fine — does not always match the crime. The camera cannot tell the difference between an “appropriate” right turn and a habitual offender.

This strict interpretation of the law has now become an enormous source of income for cities and towns across the state.

Although Florida law says drivers “come to a complete stop at the marked stop line” when making a right on red, officers can exercise discretion in deciding which offenders to ticket.  Some cities use little or no discretion, violating the spirit of the Mark Wandall Act.

The intention of the Act was to increase safety, not pad budgets.

Right turn ticketing only goes to further objections to RLCs. In addition to Brandes’ push for yellow-light time analysis at RLCs, last week Senate President Don Gaetz approved a request for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) to consider “implementation and operation strategies, efficacy, effectiveness, and efficiency of the red light camera program in Florida.”

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.