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Bipartisan Bill to Repeal Red-Light Cameras Advances in Florida Legislature

| February 15, 2013

State Road 100 is the latest stretch of road in Palm Coast to be armed with red-light spy-and-snap cameras. (c FlaglerLive)

State Road 100 is the latest stretch of road in Palm Coast to be armed with red-light spy-and-snap cameras. (c FlaglerLive)

A relatively new state law allowing local governments to use cameras to catch red light runners would be repealed under a bill that narrowly passed in the House Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday.

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The nearly two-hour debate ranged from drivers’ constitutional rights to the plight of ticketed tourists to studies showing reduced injuries at intersections after red-light cameras were installed.

The law has been under attack almost since state lawmakers voted in 2010 to allow local governments to use the cameras.

This year’s repeal bill (HB 4011), a bipartisan effort sponsored by Reps. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, and Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, was approved 10-8 by the Economic Affairs panel, its first committee stop in the House.

Trujillo touched a chord with Republican lawmakers, most of whom voted for the bill, by arguing that public safety isn’t worth sacrificing constitutional rights.

“We’re willing to compromise the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution: the right against self-incrimination for self-perceived safety,” he said. “That’s the road we’re going down. We’re willing to tell somebody, ‘You are guilty until proven innocent.'”

Law enforcement interests and municipal governments, which get a portion of the fines paid by red light runners, are strongly opposed to the measure.

“I think it’s obvious that it does change people’s driving behaviors, and I think it is obvious that it also helps to save lives and prevent people from having serious injuries,” said Haines City Police Chief Rick Sloan.

Last month, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles released a report showing that crashes were less frequent at intersections monitored by red light cameras. The report, based on data from 73 agencies, found accidents were less frequent at monitored intersections in 41 jurisdictions but more frequent at monitored intersections in 11 jurisdictions.

The panel also debated the question of local governments, law enforcement agencies and contractors making money from the fines.

“This law is strictly revenue driven,” Campbell said.

In Palm Coast, where the city council last year approved increasing the number of cameras to 52, from 10, the city makes $700 a month from each camera emplacement, whether that camera flashes enough enforceable tickets or not. But for American Trafic Solutions, the private company that runs the cameras for the city, to make money, each camera must snap considerably more than the number of tickets that cover Palm Coast’s profits, because the state, too, gets a cut from the $158 tickets. The state’s share is more than half the amount. Palm Coast stands to cash in on more than $300,000 a year in profits if all 52 cameras are installed. That’s as much as Orlando has been making from its cameras.

According to Kathleen Russell, a lobbyist for the City of Orlando, the city took in $6.1 million over the last two years and turned over $3.1 million to the state. After Orlando paid its costs, she said, its profit from the fines was $300,000.

“Whether we’re going to call it a fine, a tax or not, I feel like when we’re creating a system that … allows maybe excessive fines to be produced, I don’t think it is the best interests of what we should be doing for the citizens,” said Rep. Jimmy Patronis of Panama City. The Republican committee chairman, voted for the repeal bill.

Campbell alleged that having red light cameras at intersections discriminates against minorities, the elderly and the poor based on where they are placed, though law enforcement officials denied that was the case.

The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald reported last week that Campbell’s husband’s Honda Odyssey minivan had been caught on camera running a red light five times since the law passed. Campbell told the newspapers she only knew about one of those and doubted that others had occurred. She declined to comment after Thursday’s committee hearing.

The bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee, its last stop before reaching the House floor, but so far, the measure has no Senate sponsor.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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21 Responses for “Bipartisan Bill to Repeal Red-Light Cameras Advances in Florida Legislature”

  1. Ben Dover says:

    I hope it passes and these thieving lying city counsel members have to take pay cuts to pay back all the money they`ve stolen from people , 52 is about nothing but money , they can lie all they want , but safety is the last thing on their greedy little minds , nobody should pay one of they get it , just refuse , if I got one I`d send it back telling them where to put it

  2. Anon says:

    When and not if the bill passes I would like to know how the city of Palm Coast will make of the lost revenue when their golden goose dies.

    On the other hand, the lost revenue should not matter because the red light cameras are about safety not money. :)

  3. irnot says:

    There is one posted at the entrance to the hospital off 100. A intersection frequented by the elderly and people trying to get to the emergency room. The intersection is not dangerous there is zero obstructions of view. It is solely for profits. Also if one were to drive to any surrounding county they would see lights that change from yellow to red much slower. The amount of time that the lights are yellow for is very unsafe. I constantly hear tires squealing from being locked up and skidding out of control to a suddenly changed light. Why do we not take a closer look at how many accidents are caused from our jackrabbit yellow lights?
    Stay Classy

    • Ben Dover says:

      @irnot , You are exactly right they have shortened the yellow light timing , but they also have made the lights longer and rigged it so you get stuck at each and every light , I have to come up Belle Terre and down Palm Coast Parkway everyday to go to Woodlands, and I get stuck at each and every light , they should be set up to keep traffic flowing , but they want you to get fed up and try and beat the next one , if you go to Palatka, their main drag is much like Palm Coast Parkway, only their lights are set up the proper way, and the time it takes you to get from one end of that city to the other is times faster then here , the amount of gas they cost us a year stopping at each light and idling for minutes is triple what we should be using , so they are not only wasting a lot of our time by trying to rob us with this set up they are tripling our gas usage , what they are doing to us is criminal and needs to stop , I hope these camera`s are outlawed soon , but either way these sneaky greedy thieves need to be voted out of office!!

  4. Mel Bronson says:

    52 intersections with cameras in the little hamlet of Palm Coast? What????
    Is Palm Coast totally obsessed with this revenue driven program or are they just cash hungry vampires?

  5. Jill says:

    Actually, I find myself speeding up before the light changes. So, when the light does change to Orange – it does so too quickly and it’s too late to stop because you have committed into the crosswalk. It’s like shooting ducks in a pond and guess what, we’re the ducks.

  6. Anonymous says:

    bye bye to carmen’s camera’s……

  7. BeachLvr84 says:

    They NEED to take the cameras down by the hospital entrance on 100. That is absolutely unbelievable. If someone rolls a red light in an EMERGENCY, they’ll be ticketed.

    I hate Palm Coast. So thankful I don’t live there anymore.

  8. The Outlaw says:

    This bill is bs period. How about not running the red light? Its plain and easy. Traffic accidents at these intersections have reduced greatly with these cams, and thats the only fact that should be looked at.

  9. markingthedays says:

    Here’s an idea: STOP RUNNING RED LIGHTS. Driving into a yellow / red is basically telling everyone else at the intersection you don’t care about their safety or your own. Red light running is obviously rampant in Palm Coast or there wouldn’t be so much revenue. Red light runners are just as dangerous to others as any other criminals and red light cameras deter this blatant disrespect for the safety of others.

    • Ruben says:

      It’s not the lights,so much as the way they are set up not giving people time to clear an intersection safely.
      Some intersections don’t give time once your stuck behind someone turning slowwwwy in the intersection.
      If traffic lights were adjusted with longer yellow signal times then it would be more acceptable to have cameras when someone really ran the red.

  10. Barb says:

    Take those camera’s and shove them were the sun don’t shine city council LOSERS !!! Your “GREED” and deceitfulness is returning to haunt you thieves. Riding around Palm Coast recently and seeing all the deterioration of residents property from the city NOT maintaining their parts is DISGUSTING . Palm Coast is starting to look like those armpit ghettos in New Jersey.

  11. h&h says:

    People have been complaining about this issue and many others for years. Why do the same people get re-elected year after year. I’m begining to think people JUST LIKE TO COMPLAIN..

  12. Anonymous says:

    If they are going to have all these red lights they need to put count down clocks on all the yellow lights.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Revenue driven or not, the cameras are enforcing laws that are already in place. Why shouldn’t we be using new technology to generate revenue and stop car accidents?

  14. Nancy N. says:

    If the council wants us to believe that this is truly a public safety issue and not a money grab, maybe they should put their money where their mouths are and divert the camera revenue to something outside the general budget for the city. Something for the good of the community like supporting local food banks, a building for the free clinic, etc. If the revenue weren’t being pocketed by the city as general revenue they might have a bit more credibility – and people might complain less about the tickets if the money was going to a good cause instead of to greedy politicians.

    I will still hate the cameras regardless because of how they affect the way you have to drive, and the risk of rear end collisions. But it might affect some people’s impression of them.

    Out driving today I realized where a lot of that revenue is coming from – tourists who don’t notice the camera signs. The intersection of Palm Coast Parkway and Cyress Point was a total disaster – the light changing with people sitting in the intersection trying to turn left, people suddenly changing lanes because they were lost….it was all the race fans. I guarantee you a lot of people got tickets today at that intersection because they were so busy trying to figure out where to go that they didn’t notice the camera signs.

  15. EeyoreHal says:

    I was on Palm Coast Pkwy Saturday and I swear, if you blink when the lights turn yellow, you may miss the event. I live in Flagler Beach and will be doing most of my shopping in Ormond until Palm Coast gets rid of their unnecessary cameras.

  16. Ben Dover says:

    how bout they use the money from the camera`s to replace the money they stole from the utility funds, then they wouldn t have to increase it, but this is about greed and money they can pocket themselves , once a thief always a thief

  17. Ruben says:

    Next will be speed cameras that will really bring in some big revenue. Especially since thier are not many speed signs posted where they should be. Those that drive pizza, emergency vehicles, UPS, and utilities repair will be exempt from speed traps. Aw heck just give the county your bank account number and let them take what they want.

  18. Poor residents says:

    I hope the red light scam cams come down people of palm coast stand up for your selfs vote these idiots out if you get a redlight ticket by chance pay the ticket clinic costs 75 dollars an the crappy town of scam coast gets nothing maybe landing will have to take pay cut or replace the money being abused from the water department tell your friends beware of scam coast ps they made urban dictionary look up scam coast lol

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