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State Study Skeptical of Red-Light Cameras’ Effectiveness Buoys Senator’s Push For Repeal

| February 10, 2014

red light cameras ats florida palm coast

They’re watching you. And billing you. (© FlaglerLive)

A measure to repeal the state’s red-light traffic camera law will be pushed forward by lawmakers using a study from the Legislature’s non-partisan policy office to support the effort.

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The report from the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability found there were fewer fatalities but more crashes at electronically monitored intersections, and that fines issued due to the technology cost motorists nearly $119 million last year.

In Palm Coast, based on monthly figures released last year, the city’s 47 cameras levy around $3 million in annual fines, of which the city keeps less than $400,000. The rest is divided between the state and American Traffic Solutions, the private company that runs Palm Coast’s cameras. Palm Coast is one of some 100 cities in 26 counties that have cameras, though proportionately, Palm Coast has more cameras then most: its 47 cameras represent 5 percent of the state’s total of 922, as of September.

The Florida League of Cities quickly contested the fairness of the state study.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Monday that the study backs his contention that the state’s primary red-light camera law, the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act of 2010, hasn’t reduced safety, and that municipal and county governments are using the program to fuel their budgets.

“I think we should go all in for full repeal,” Brandes said during a press conference at the Capitol to highlight the study. “I think this data clearly shows that this program is not working as the Legislature intended, that we’re not seeing a reduction in accidents, (and) that we’re seeing a clear, dramatic increase in revenues that are being generated from this.”

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who has filed a measure (HB 4009) to repeal the 2010 law, said if legislators are unwilling to support repeal, state lawmakers should enact the series of recommendations included in the legislative study.

“I still firmly believe that this program should be repealed, but if we cannot repeal it I’m willing to modify it significantly,” Artiles said.

The study recommends that local governments demonstrate a safety need at each intersection where cameras may be installed–something Palm Coast has never done– that local communities should be required to follow standards on the length of yellow lights, and that revenue local governments generate from the cameras be restricted to public and traffic safety uses.

Artiles also proposes that the amount local governments can fine be reduced from $158 to $83.

The Florida League of Cities, in a release from its lobbyist Casey Cook, maintained that the cameras do improve safety and called the study “biased and inconsistent.”

“The report’s conclusion is not surprising given that it was requested by a legislator who sponsored a bill to repeal Florida’s red-light safety camera law,” the release said.

The release added: “It’s also curious how this report issued by the state legislature criticizes local revenue but makes no mention of eliminating the state portion of the fine.”

There is, however, no relationship between a legislator’s request for a study and the study’s conclusions: like the Congressional Budget Office or the Congressional Research Service, the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability is rigorously non-partisan.

No conclusive evidence that traffic cameras improve safety.

As with previous such studies, the OPPAGA study found more conflicting than conclusive evidence about the effectiveness of red-light cameras as safety devices. “As of December 2013,” the study found, “502 communities in the U.S. had red light camera programs. The experiences of other states and jurisdictions that have implemented red light camera programs vary widely. Many studies have concluded that red light cameras are effective at improving public safety, while some have drawn the opposite conclusion. Still many others have yielded inconclusive results about the safety effectiveness of red light camera programs.”

The study added: “Many studies have reviewed the red light camera safety effectiveness literature and concluded that there is no well-accepted consensus on whether red light cameras are effective at improving public safety because of wide variation in research techniques and considerations. […] Moreover, most red light camera effectiveness studies to date have been limited by methodological difficulties that raise questions about their conclusions.”

The study doesn’t itself determine if cameras have improved safety, and notes that most county and municipal governments in Florida started to use the cameras without first addressing alternative countermeasures.

In a key finding, the study concluded that “Crashes resulting in fatalities decreased at red light camera intersections on state roads but rear-end and angle crashes increased.”

The study elaborated: “When examining crashes by type at red light camera intersections on state roads, we determined that statewide, crashes resulting in a disregarded traffic signal citation decreased by 19 percent and those resulting in fatalities decreased by 49%. However, angle crashes (the crashes most commonly associated with red light running) increased by 22 percent at red light camera intersections. In addition, rear-end crashes (the crashes most commonly associated with the presence of red light cameras) increased statewide by 35 percent at red light camera intersections during the study period. Total crashes at these intersections also increased by 12 percent. It should be noted that there were significant decreases in crashes not typically identified as associated with red light running; these include sideswipe and head-on crashes.”

Cook said the use of the cameras should be left up to the local governments.

Brandes said his measure (SB 144) to repeal the 2010 law had been on hold pending the Feb. 7 release of the legislative study, and he hopes to have the bill moving in a couple of weeks.

The Senate Transportation Committee is expected to review a committee proposal on Thursday that proposes a freeze on the installation of new red-light cameras that would start July 1.

With violators charged $158, of which $83 goes to state, revenue from the fines has grown from $37.6 million in the 2011 fiscal year to $118.9 million last year.

The cameras were in use at 922 approaches to intersections in 79 jurisdictions — mostly by municipalities — in 26 counties, as of June 30, 2013. Miami took in the most revenue last year from red light runners caught on camera, $5.8 million.

Brandes added that he will ask Attorney General Pam Bondi to look into allegation of fraud involving RedFlex Traffic Systems, the Arizona-based firm that has installed and monitors red-light traffic cameras in Jacksonville and other cities.

The company is embroiled in a bribery scandal in Chicago, and the Chicago Tribune has reported that a fired RedFlex executive had accused the company of undertaking similar arrangements with officials in 13 states, including Florida.

A spokesman for Bondi said Monday afternoon that no request to investigate RedFlex had been made to the office.

Prior to the press conference, America Traffic Solutions, which markets the cameras, proclaimed the study affirms the safety of the cameras in reducing serious injuries, and that better data collection and analysis is needed to understand the information related to rear-end and side-angle crash data.

“In July 2013, (Sen.) Jeff Brandes sponsored several updates to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act which became law and are just now taking effect,” America Traffic Solutions stated in a release. “These included changes to the issuance of right-on-red violations and the appeals process. In its report OPPAGA offers several additional recommendations to further improve the program statewide. We look forward to working constructively with our customers and the legislature to enhance the effectiveness of Florida’s red-light safety camera law.”

–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive

OPPAGA: Florida Red Light Camera Programs

17 Responses for “State Study Skeptical of Red-Light Cameras’ Effectiveness Buoys Senator’s Push For Repeal”

  1. Mary Cannady says:

    Glad to see this report. My hubby slammed on the breaks approaching the I95 light on Palm Coast Pkwy, and my back still hurts from the jolt.

  2. Senator Brandes is correct, this OPPAGA report should cause all legislators to support HB4009 and SB144 to repeal the use of cameras entirely. Crash rates are up, not down, so the safety claims are simply false.

    Revenues are up – and revenues are the real reason the cameras were installed. Red light cameras were put in place without applying many inexpensive engineering changes that are known to dramatically reduce violations and crash risks. WHY were these changes not done? This is simple, engineering traffic lights and intersections for safety guts the revenue stream from the red light camera cash registers.

    Florida residents need to contact their state Representatives and Senators to insist they support SB144 and HB4009. As a fall back, ask them to also support the recent proposal to ban new cameras after July 1, 2014 and cut the cities entirely out of the revenue stream.

    Leaving camera decisions up to the cities and counties guarantees continued predatory use of the red light camera cash registers for revenue. If you want the scams ended you must speak out now.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

    • Rick says:

      “…..and cut the cities entirely out of the revenue stream.”

      That’s a good idea Mr. Walker & only then we’ll actually see just how much of a rat’s rump they really give about the town drivers’ safety.
      I dare wager a bet right now, they won’t as in zip, zilch, zero.

  3. Perry Mitrano says:

    They (red light cameras) don’t work and do little for public safety. Extend the yellow at the intersections will do more on behalf of public safety.

    Get rid of them !!!!!

  4. neverwas says:

    When you get a yellow light you have two choices. Step on it so you are past the line before you get a red light and a ticket or slam on your brakes and get rear ended. All this could be avoided with longer yellows but instead they shortened them at camera intersections to make more money. The cameras ars not about saving lives they are about making money, its a business, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  5. Jack says:

    I have not liked the idea from the beginning. It makes me angry when they shorten the length of the yellow. I think that there should be more policeman on the road. Dedicate one officer to signal light duty and station him/her at a different intersection every day. This would probably solve the problem and tickets would be sure to go to the driver of the car not the operator of the car!

  6. markingthedays says:

    Good luck to the pedestrians

  7. alexis billings says:

    I wish all those people who lined both sides of Palm Coast Parkway with Obama “Yes We Can…” signs back in 2008 would go back out there again and add “…GET RID OF THE RED LIGHT CAMERAS” to their signs. Now that is something I would enthusiastically honk for when I drive by.

    Think of the media attention it would generate! There would be media from all over Florida covering it. When the city realized that the will of the people was so strong they would have no choice but to concede. It could be the one thing in Palm Coast that brings us all together as one. That makes us realize that even though we are all from other cities, other states, and even other countries, that we must all stand together as Palm Coast citizens against a disgusting evil and purge it from our city.

    Then after our victory we would all see that we had the power to achieve something truly remarkable. It would unify us as one town, regardless of the name of our section, and would put us on the map to always be remembered as the city that beat the red light cameras.

  8. Enough says:

    Please write or 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 Links for Senate Bill 144 (SB144):

    Web Link to write or email your State Representative:

  9. Karma says:

    Can we have target practice on the camera’s before they leave ?


  10. Robert says:

    You can bet that the traffic camera companies are lobbying ($$$) to keep their cash cows in place.

    It is amazing that the town council in Palm Coast turns a deaf ear to the fact that considerable amounts of money are being removed from our fragile and meager economy.

    And they do it under the shroud of so called safety.

  11. Robert says:

    One more comment.

    Fast forward and assume the red light cameras are outlawed.

    These folks in the town government are very predictable.
    They will attempt to implement some procedure that will produce the same 300+ red light ticket violations and corresponding fines per month. The number may not have to equal the current average of over 300 violations per month, only enough to generate the same revenue since ATS will be out of the picture. Florida has a formula for distribution of traffic infraction fines so with less than 300 violations the city would fair at least the same or better with ATS out of the picture.

    There have already been those kinds of discussions, as reported by the Palm Coast Observer. Something like posting deputies at red lights or adding more deputies to the payroll. The town manager and councilor were very careful not to mention money because they have categorically denied that it is a money making scheme.

    There are cameras, all around the city and they have over an 80% error rate. Just how many deputies do they plan to have standing around at various intersections trying to generate revenue? These people have more schemes than Charles Ponzi had.

    And if these cameras truly do reduce accidents and it is all about safety, as they claim, the numbers of accidents should go up at all of the intersections once these cameras are removed.

  12. Paul Henry says:

    Camera schemes are widely opposed by the public, and when given the opportunity to vote on them the public has voted against them 90% of the time (27 out of 30 votes as identified by the National Motorist Association). One reason is that Americans can recognize something as blatantly unfair. Not penalizing the person that broke the law but compelling someone else to do so brings back memories of rubber hoses and bright lights in interrogation rooms used to beat confessions out of people. America was not founded upon legal principles such as these.

    Creating a kangaroo court that further stacks the deck against a vehicle owner is another reason.

  13. grb says:

    The fact that there is a red light camera at the intersection on 100, that leads into Florida hospital, where there isn’t even a ROAD on the other side of the street, and the fact that it is one of the biggest money makers for tickets, from unsuspecting people not quite stopping long enough before turning right, tells me all I need to know. A money grab, a legal scam by Palm Coast.

  14. Observer says:

    The camera on 100/Florida Hospital is a disgrace………what we should be doing is marching on City Hall…. This our City…not the politicians or the money hungry ATS.

  15. The Baron says:

    I have contacted our State Rep. Travis. His response was typical political double speak & in no way was supportive of the working home owning taxpayer. There is a petition currently being circulated in town look it up on Facebook “get rid of red light cameras” or something like that. It’s a grass root attempt to due what our local elected officials refuse to due removing the eyes of doom via a vote by the resident’s of PC. Please sign it . The gentleman us usually at the library . I saw last weeks numbers in another paper and when you do the math, based on the standing agreement PC allows over 70% of revenue to leave our municipality. they have also rigged the game by setting the yellow signal to state minimums.
    The whole concept IMHO is unconstitutional to begin with. Dare to challenge it , lose and you get penalized even more. if the City Council is unwilling to remove them then the City Council should be removed.

  16. Steven Nobile says:

    As a local business man, this decision to install some 50ish red light cameras in Palm Coast was one of the biggest city sell outs I can remember.

    How does this benefit the people of Palm Coast.
    It doesn’t.
    Has the solution been implemented in a financially responsible and effective manner.
    Not even close. The amount of money being taken out of the Palm Coast economy is absolutely ridiculous. I’m not talking about the ticket being paid, I’m talking about the money taken by the state and camera company. The city councils statement is that it doesn’t cost the residents of Palm Coast a dime.

    Give me a break. Again, the cities officials are quick to tax, fine and regulate the residents of Palm Coast without a care.

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