Red-light cameras getting closer to being turned off

Florida legislature considering repeal of 7-year-old law

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Red-light cameras have become a common sight at intersections across Florida since being legalized in 2010, but a bill getting some attention in the state legislature aims to turn the cameras off.

If the bill passes, it would repeal a law known as the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act of 2010. Law enforcement in Florida would no longer be able to use the cameras to ticket drivers who break the law. 

Opinions on whether the cameras should stay in use varied among Jacksonville drivers.

"It holds people accountable for their actions," said Phyllis Hogue, who supports red-light cameras.

But not everyone felt that the cameras were there in the best interest of all motorists.

"As far as the red light cameras, I feel it's a form of extortion, to be honest," said opponent Manuel Guerrero.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, there are currently 37 active red light cameras in the city. Orange Park also uses red-light cameras.

While many believe these cameras are changing the way people drive and ultimately saving lives, others have a different take.

Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough, Rep. Cord Byrd, and Rep. Jason Fischer all said they support repealing the red-light camera law.

Fischer and Yarborough said they're not convinced these cameras make anyone safer.

Yarborough pointed to a 2016 report from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. It's being used as staff analysis for the House of Representatives.

The data says after red light cameras were installed at intersections, rear-end crashes jumped from about 3,700 to over 4,100.

Angle crashes rose from 1,383 to 1,476. The number of total crashes rose from just over 5,100 to more than 5,600.

Hogue says based on what she's seen people do on the road, she believes driver accountability should be considered.

"I was hit at a stop light and got T-boned. It did not have a camera," Hogue said. "So yes, I think it's a
good idea."

Opponents, including the Florida League of Cities and Melissa Wandall, the wife of Mark Wandall, argued local officials should be able to decide whether to use the cameras. Melissa Wandall maintained the law saves lives.

"If I thought this … was killing other people, maiming other people, injuring other people, I tell you right now, I would have my husband's name taken off this (law)," said Wandall, whose husband was killed by a red-light runner in 2003. "I'm not just an advocate, I know the statistics. I work with law enforcement. We're taking all these tools away from law enforcement."

For motorists, the proposal would eliminate $158 fines imposed on the owners of vehicles caught on camera running red lights, starting July 1, 2020.

State and local governments split the fine revenues, with the fines yielding nearly $60 million for the state budget last year, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

 

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