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New year to bring removal of red-light cameras in Jacksonville

However, town clerk says Orange Park has renewed its red-light camera contract

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new year is looking bright, according to many Jacksonville drivers who are relieved that red-light cameras in the city will be removed in just days.

Sheriff Mike Williams announced over the summer that the city will not renew its contract for the cameras.

Starting Monday, law enforcement officers will have to physically see drivers run a red light in Jacksonville, and that may soon be the case all around the state.

Several years ago, the city of Jacksonville contracted the company Redflex to install red-light cameras at the most congested intersections in town -- 37 total on either side of the St. Johns River. Some of the cameras, such as the one at the intersection of University and Beach boulevards, have been inoperable because of maintenance and engineering. 

And soon, Duval County will be free from all of them.

"There are times I've actually slammed on my brakes and felt like someone was going to rear-end me because of wanting to stop and not get a ticket," Jacksonville driver Julie Damron told News4Jax on Thursday.

When Williams made the announcement earlier this year, he cited a report from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that showed red-light cameras were not making the roads safer. According to that study, crashes increased by more than 10.1 percent after red-light cameras were installed.

"I could definitely see that happening," Damron said. "There have been other times I’ve almost rear-ended somebody else because of that. So you see people stopping, slamming on their brakes because they don’t want to get a ticket when actually it is a yellow light and they can go through it.” 

The study also found car accidents with life-threatening injuries increased by nearly 27 percent in Jacksonville. Statewide, they increased by 3 percent, but car crashes in general decreased by about 5 percent.

Many believe in the cameras because they mean fewer people are taking chances at breaking the law.

"I haven't had an issue with them, so it's not really something I worry about," said Jacksonville driver Mike Echebarria said. "I haven't had any pictures sent to me or tickets sent to me, so I haven't had an issue."

In Clay County, the town clerk said Orange Park just renewed its red-light camera contract at the end of last year, and the contract is good for another two years.

Also in the Northeast Florida area, Green Cove Springs, Palatka and Palm Coast still have red-light cameras.

There's currently a bill pre-filed with the Florida House that, if passed, would repeal the state law that allows local governments to use the cameras.

Jacksonville drivers who are caught on red-light cameras in the next few days, and don't receive their citations in the mail until after the new year, will still have to pay the tickets because they were caught on camera in 2017.