JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly a half-million dollars in fines have been collected from motorists in the three months since red light cameras began going live at Jacksonville intersections, but less than half of that money goes to the city budget.
Thousands of moving violations of $158 each have been generated by the 18 cameras at Jacksonville intersections since March 1. Of each fine, $70 is given to the Florida Department of Revenue, $10 is given to the Florida Department of Health Medical Services Trust Fund, $3 is deposited in the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund and the city keeps $75.
But the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office pays $3,999 per camera per month to Red Flex, the company that installed and maintains the cameras. That leaves the city with well under half the money generated by the fines. Police have insisted all along the cameras are about increasing safety, not making money.
"We're not interested in the revenue. It's not about revenue," JSO Director Micheal Edwards told Channel 4 last month. "It's about trying to save lives. That's our ultimate goal here."
At Southside Boulevard and Touchton Road, crashes during a month and a half time period went from eight in 2012 to two this year. At Beach and University boulevards, crashes went from 12 to three. And at University and Atlantic boulevards, the number of accidents declined from 10 to four.
The number of crashes at one intersection where red light cameras were installed increased. At Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard, the number jumped from five last year to eight this year.
Police say clearly marked red light cameras cut down on the number of side impact or T-bone-style crashes, which are traditionally more deadly than others.
A study by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found these kinds of accidents are down 43 percent nationwide at red light intersections.
But not everyone's in favor of the new hardware. Some say "big brother" has gone too far and the cameras have potential to do more harm than good, with people slamming on their brakes to avoid getting in trouble.
And not all the tickets hold up when challenged.
"There are literally hundreds and hundreds of cases that are being thrown out for these various issues," Jacksonville attorney David Robbins said.
He said red lights are a hot topic among judges and lawmakers. He believes there's too much gray area about what's legal and what's not, and questions the motives for having them installed in the first place.
Last year, the state of Florida generated nearly $100 million from red light running violations.
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