Tampa Police left out certain data in red-light camera crash reports

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Tampa Police may have held back certain unfavorable crash statistics in a report on intersections with controversial Red Light Cameras.

Although the Tampa Police Department recently issued a new report indicating RLCs reduced serious crashes in some intersections, Noah Pransky of WTSP/10 News reports another study was conducted, but never released, showing the number of crashes spiked  after installing RLCs in at least one intersection.

In the report TPD considers an “intersection crash” if it only occurs less than 25 feet of the intersection’s stop bar, a shorter distance than what is used by many other municipalities. With the longer distance, possible rear-end crashes are taken into account.

The Florida Legislature’s non-partisan Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) announced a study last month saying  RLCs help reduce fatal crashes at monitored intersections, while the number of rear-end collisions may also increase — mostly because of shorter yellow lights, which have been under dispute since the beginning of the RLC program.

Yellow light lengths became an issue since 10 News Investigates began looking into crash rates in May 2013.

Tampa officials initially told reporters that accident reports were not available within a specific radius at individual intersections.

However, a public records request found a series of emails, dated months earlier, suggesting Tampa did indeed follow crashes within a 25-foot radius, as well as crashes within a 50-foot and 100-foot radius of the RLC intersections.

Comparing the information for 12 months prior to the installation of cameras (Nov. 2010 to Oct. 31, 2011) to the data from the first month of RLCs, the TPD announced crashes are down 29 percent at the less than 25-foot mark, but only down 12 percent at the 50-foot and 7 percent at the 100-foot marks.

What the TPD report failed to include were accident rates between 25 and 50 feet— which rose a whopping 68 percent. Many of those accidents failed to make it in the final version.

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor told WTSP that the 100-foot benchmark “cannot say if that crash was directly impacted by that intersection.”

But Hillsborough County, Sarasota, and Port Richey all use the 100-foot radius for calculating intersection crash data. And both St. Petersburg (with 300 ft.) and New Port Richey (at 250 ft.) use longer distances.

Manatee County, Bradenton, and Brooksville use zero feet, which eliminates any accidents in the RLC intersection approach.

Tampa’s once-massive profits from the RLC program, as much as $2.3 million in 2012, has dropped off considerably after lengthening yellow lights.

 

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.