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Proposed Law Would Halt New Red-Light Cameras and Cut Fines By Half to End Profits

| January 9, 2014

Palm Coast's most despised totems. (Paul Sableman)

Palm Coast’s most despised totems. (Paul Sableman)

New red light cameras would no longer be allowed under a wide-ranging transportation proposal that received the go-ahead Thursday from a House subcommittee.

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But a roadblock may be ahead for the measure, which was approved in a 10-3 vote by the Transportation & Highway Safety Subcommittee.

Besides no longer allowing municipalities and counties to install red light cameras at currently unmonitored intersections after July 1, the proposal (THSS 14-01) offered by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, would reduce the penalty for red light violators caught on camera from $158 to $83. Local governments also would only be allowed to impose a $25 surcharge on tickets to fund the existing systems.

“We are not removing the cameras that are already there,” Artiles said. “If it’s a safety issue what we’re doing is basically saying the local governments are not profiteering from it.”

However, the proposal is expected to face a more staunch debate at its next stop — the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee — where the chairman Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, on Thursday expressed his support for red light cameras.

Hooper said the cameras are a safety measure imposed by local governments.

“Should it get agendaed there will be a discussion from every interested party,” Hooper said in regard to the bill’s pending appearance before his subcommittee. “There are some camera companies that should want to do that, some government representatives that will want to do that. I assure the members of this committee that debate will occur before any additional vote on this bill takes place.”

More than 100 jurisdictions across the state use traffic-light cameras that collectively have generated more than $100 million a year through tickets. Palm Coast is among those governments, with one of the highest proportions of cameras, relative to population, of any city in the state. Palm Coast has 43 such cameras at city intersections. The cameras generate $30,000 a month for the city, but the overwhelming majority of the profits go to the state, which takes more than four times the amount that goes to Palm Coast, and American Traffic Solutions, the private, Arizona-based company that runs Palm Coast’s system, and that reaps more than three times the profits Palm Coast does. Palm Coast’s local economy loses about $2.7 million to the state and to ATS.

The state Department of Transportation in June directed local agencies to add at least 0.4 seconds to the yellow intervals on traffic lights. Research had found that yellow lights were set a half-a-second shorter than the recommended interval, which could result in a doubling of the number of tickets.

Tallahassee Police Department Major Chris Connell, representing the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the city, said the cameras have improved safety and lives.

“Just here in Tallahassee alone, at some of the major intersections, in any given month we see an up to 1,000 decrease in violations than what we saw at the beginning,” Connell said. “This tells us that driving habits have been changed.”

Paul Henry, a former Florida Highway Patrol officer, claimed the cameras have only increased crashes and that the use of the cameras is simply a revenue-generating “scheme” for local government.

The committee proposal is separate from a measure (HB 4009) by Artiles intended to turn off red-light cameras across the state by removing the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act of 2010 from Florida law.

That bill and its Senate companion (SB 144) by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, have yet to be scheduled for committee hearings.

A similar proposal failed to advance last session, but lawmakers included a provision in an omnibus transportation bill (HB 7125) that is intended to make it tougher for local governments to issue tickets to drivers caught on camera turning right on red.

–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive

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20 Responses for “Proposed Law Would Halt New Red-Light Cameras and Cut Fines By Half to End Profits”

  1. Paul Anderson says:

    I sit at an intersection and watch cars lawfully passing through while the cameras flash and take pictures of completely innocent vehicles going by. Truly astonishing and shameful. The crooked politicians are doing nothing but levying illegal taxes on the driving public. The cameras must GO!

    • Paul L. says:

      I look at the statistics in The Observer and see that only 10% or less of the total flashes that you see result in a summons. They do have a process to review the flash both by the company that runs the cameras and the Sheriff’s office.

  2. Suzy Q says:

    If it doesn’t pass we need Paul Bunyan to cut down those metal totem poles.

  3. Billybob says:

    $158 is close to a week’s paycheck for many Palm Coast residents working part time service jobs. I think the cameras give the city of Palm Coast a poor reputation. 43 cameras, really? Who can’t see that it’s a revenue stream, first and foremost? I am personally ashamed of it but the city leaders have time and again shown that they do not care about the resident’s point of view on this.

    It’s also been stated numerous times that the red light camera companies have people on staff who populate message boards posting comments like “I feel so much safer now that there are red light cameras.” That statement doesn’t even make a bit of sense. How does a camera keep a distracted driver from blowing through a red light? It might catch them doing it but it certainly doesn’t prevent it. Accidents happen whether or not the red light cameras are there.

    Here is what a red light ticket infraction SHOULD look like:
    I suggest less than 1% of all Palm Coast red light tickets resemble this video.

    Here is what most red light ticket infractions ACTUALLY look like: (skip to 1:00)
    Is that worth $158, or a week’s paycheck?

  4. w.ryan says:

    Still another Trojan Horse! The right to face your accuser? A camera? Ultimately the cameras stay and the people are hoodwinked!!!

  5. Enough says:

    Please write/email your Florida State Representative and let them know that you are in favor of Senate Bill 144 (SB144) to remove Red Light Cameras state wide.

    Web Link for Senate Bill 144 (SB144):

    Web Link to write/email your State Representative:

  6. m&m says:

    The whiners about the cameras are ones who were caught breaking the law.. Obey the law and there wouldn’t be a problem..

    • Larry says:

      Not true. I have never received a ticket from a red light camera. I do know people who have. I firmly disagree with them because the owner of the car is guilty no matter whether or not they are driving. One reason we have traffic police is because they are the witness to the infraction ad when your court date comes up they have to be there as the witness. Now you are guilty whether or not they can prove you were the driver. This is not the way it should be. It is extoration because if you fight the ticket and found guilty the court fees then cost you a lot more and may get points against your license but if you just pay no points and cheaper. Makes you not want to fight it.

      When some cities have fought against the cameras the company then sues the cities. This makes it harder to defeat. Just who do they think they are? If you want to make a dangerous intesection safer pay a local cop to sit there. This helps create jobs locally. What happens now is a large portion of the money goes to a complany out of state.

      These cameras should be removed and made illegal state wide.

      Lastly, this kind of technology is pretty cheap now a days. If your local really wants these it is not that costly for them to provide the cameras rather than some out of state business of whom would not have them if they were not making a profit. But really just pay a cop and create ocal jobs.

  7. James C. Walker says:

    This would be a great bill, if it passes. It would remove all the financial incentives for cities to use red light cameras for revenue.

    The 2010 law to authorize red light cameras was primarily a revenue generation scam to benefit the state budget, with 52.5% of money going to the state without the state paying a penny of the high camera costs. The other primary beneficiaries of the camera scam are the camera companies led by ATS which has the largest share of the market. They lease most cameras at $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera. Ron Reagan, the former state legislator who got the authorizing bill passed, now works for a front group largely supported by ATS. Coincidence? Hmmmmm.

    Then in July 2011 the Florida Department of Transportation changed the rules on setting yellow intervals to allow cities to deliberately set them too short so that more tickets would go to safe drivers for more $$$.

    It will be difficult to end this $100 million dollar per year red light camera scam, but it CAN be done if enough residents contact their state Representatives and Senators to demand that the cameras be ended or the severe restrictions being debated get passed.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  8. Gia says:

    Either give the most money to palm Coast or get rid of the cameras.Fine $1.000 for responsible accident.

  9. agnese says:

    About time

  10. Sgt. Steele says:

    Here’s a better idea……..Get rid of ALL of THEM and hire some old fashion TRAFFIC COPS !!!!

  11. tom jack says:

    If, as jim landon always states, the cameras are there for safety only, then lets pass this bill that removes any profits to the city.

    • Larry says:

      These cameras do not cost much. If they must have them buy them locally, install them, and then monitor them locally. This will remove profits also from the outside company who lobbies hard for these cameras.

  12. Joey Paparazzi says:

    Has anyone noticed the added time to the camera at Pine Lakes Pkwy and Belle Terre Pkwy. What a difference in time. They were told to add 1/2 second. It appears longer than that back to the old way. There is no oversight by the gov’t to check the calibration of these companies. The fox in charge of the hen house. Guess what! We’re the hens or sitting ducks.

  13. Florida Native. says:

    What a bunch of spineless weasels. Just take the damned things down. I drive to the mountains in Western Carolina and Tennessee and the only cameras I come in contact with are the ones in Palm Coast and one in Orange Park on US17. That’s in 500 miles of driving.

  14. For Larry, the new proposal in the legislature would end the city profits portion. The state would get $83 (same as currently) and the city could charge up to $25 to pay the camera company for a maximum total of $108 fines. The city would get $0.00 from each ticket.

    If people are tired of the predatory money grab scam of red light cameras, they should contact their state Representatives and Senators to insist they support this new proposal to limit fines to $108 maximum AND to also support SB144 and HB4009 to ban the cameras entirely statewide.

    The scam CAN be ended, if enough people insist their legislators support the bills.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  15. Todd Gann says:

    To Hell with these cameras in this entire state. Recently I received one of these tickets in the mail. The money doesn’t even stay here in this state. I ended up mailing the money to New York. Go figure! First it is unconstitutional. But who really cares about that! Right? Just like everything else in this poorly governed town, all revenue comes from it’s citizens! Be it property tax, wheel tax, or whatever fee de jour. There would not have to be any type of fee grabbing mechanisms if the inept politicians of this town would bring in productive industry to strengthen our economy. Instead, they are well content on bringing in another service oriented industry that will only keep people at a below poverty level. That’s my opinion and it ought to be yours!!

    • For Todd Gann: It takes ACTION, not just complaints to get rid of this vicious money grab scam.

      Get all of your family, friends neighbors co-workers, etc. to contact their state Representatives and Senators to insist they support this new proposal to limit fines to $108 maximum AND to also support SB144 and HB4009 to ban the cameras entirely statewide. Notify the politicians you intend to support ONLY people dedicated to end the use of all red light cameras.

      Contact the local elected officials wherever cameras are used to insist they be taken down. Let them know you will be voting ONLY for officials who oppose the cameras.

      STOP shopping in areas with cameras and let the store owners/managers know WHY they are losing your business. Shop in areas without cameras and let those store owners/managers know why they now get your business. Write letters to the editors of papers demanding an end to red light cameras.

      James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

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