Money or safety? New red light camera study emboldens criticsby John Kennedy | February 10th, 2014
A new state study is emboldening critics of red light cameras in Florida who want the Legislature to either outlaw the controversial devices or dramatically scale-back their money-making potential for cities and counties.
Use of the cameras has proliferated and fines collected have increased 200 percent since 2010-11, according to the new report by the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).
Meanwhile, fatal crashes have decreased at red light camera intersections. But rear-end and angle crashes have increased, the watchdogs found.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is sponsoring legislation to repeal the 2010 state law which gave local governments authority to install the cameras.
“Clearly the red light camera vendors are benefiting,” Brandes said Monday. “I think clearly that the ultimate losers have been Floridians who are seeing an increase in the accidents…they were supposed to be about safety. Unfortunately, they’re about revenue.”
The OPPAGA report shows total revenue from the cameras grew from $37.6 million to $118.9 million between 2010 and last year. Nearly half of the fines collected by local governments are used to pay red light camera vendors, the report found.
Among the counties with red light camera intersections, almost 40 percent had an increase in rear-end and angle crashes, OPPAGA found.
Getting a repeal effort through the House and Senate may be tough — since cities and counties are fiercely defending the use of cameras. But Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, has already advanced a provision in a massive House transportation bill that would prohibit local governments from collecting the kind of money they’ve been taking in from the program.
Artiles also would ban cities and counties from installing more cameras. He has said that “profiteering” is driving the program.
“If we can’t repeal it, we would be willing to modify it,” Artiles said.
Palm Beach County commissioners recently voted to continue the county’s red light program, used at 17 intersections in the unincorporated area. The move came despite a staff study reached few solid conclusions on the effectiveness of the cameras.
The county’s program is operated by American Traffic Solutions. The Arizona-based company commands about 80 percent of the Florida market and has 23 lobbyists poised to work state Capitol hallways this spring.
ATS also is an active political player, contributing $160,000 to the Florida Republican Party and $95,000 to the Florida Democratic Party over the past two years, records show.