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Days numbered for Jacksonville's red-light cameras

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After five years of watching for red-light runners, the cameras keeping watch at dozens of Jacksonville intersections will be turned off at the end of the year.

That means drivers who run a red light will not get a ticket unless a violation is witnessed by a law enforcement officer. 

Sheriff Mike Williams announced over the summer that the city would not renew the contract for the cameras. It will end a revenue stream for the city, but Williams' cited a report from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that showed it was not making the roads safer.

According to that study:

  • Crashes increased by more than 10.1 percent after red-light cameras were installed
  • Rear-end collisions saw an 11.4 percent increase
  • Life-threatening injuries went up by about 26.8 percent

Jacksonville data doesn't quite match up to the state statistics, however:

  • Crashes decreased by more than 5.3 percent
  • Rear-end collisions went down by about 1.9 percent
  • Life-threatening injuries increased by 3.2 percent

There was a drop in drivers who ran red lights by 25 percent after the cameras were installed.

I'm at the intersection of Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road where five years ago, the first red light cameras were installed.

People who frequent the intersection of Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road, where the first red-light camera in Jacksonville went up five years ago, have mixed reactions on whether the cameras had any impact on crashes.

Grant Engelhardt admits his own daughter ran a red light and had to pay a $158 ticket. He used her as an example of how the red-light cameras improved safety.

"I think it was a little painful, but three or four years later since that citation, she hasn't gotten another one, so I feel like she's driving safer," Engelhardt said.

But other drivers say the anxiety of the red-light cameras forced people to pump the brakes, causing more wrecks.

"Sometimes you don't run a red light and it flashes and you get that anxiety," Jessica Belton said. "Now they're taking them down, and I don't think it's a bad idea."

In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Florida collected nearly $2.7 million from citations issued in Jacksonville alone, but because that money was split between the vendor, Redflex, the state, the city and a health fund, the city only received a fraction of that amount.