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St. Pete officials approve red light cameras

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

The City Council voted 7-1 today to install cameras at intersections to fine motorists who don’t stop at red lights, hearing little opposition from the public and citing few specific studies that showed this was an effective way to reduce crashes.

“The research is very simple,” said Council member Bill Dudley. “Sit in your car and watch. There’s so much data out there that says it’s not a good thing. Running red lights is a form of disaster.”

Council member Jeff Danner said on-line videos should convince anyone that red light cameras were necessary.

“Just type ‘red light running’ on YouTube and watch all the crashes,” Danner said. “You won’t believe it. One is too many. This is a safety issue. We need to move forward on it.”

Council member Jim Kennedy made the motion to install the cameras, and cited unnamed studies that he said showed motorists quickly learn about the cameras once they get tickets. Once that happens, tickets and crashes go down, he said. But on Wednesday, Kennedy was asked which studies he was citing and he replied that he was quoting what the city’s director of transportation and parking had told him and that he hadn’t actually seen the research himself.

A study that wasn’t mentioned by city officials was done by the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health last year. It concluded that red light cameras, “rather than improving motorist safety…significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums.”

“Cities that install cameras don’t want crashes to go down,” said Etienne Pracht, associate professor of health policy and management at USF who worked on the study. “If they do that, revenue goes down. If they want to improve public safety, all they have to do is increase the length of the yellow light interval.” Continue reading here.

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.

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