Will 2019 Session See the End of Red Light Cameras?

Dennis Maley
TALLAHASSEE — Florida's House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee voted 12-1 this week to support HB 6003, which would repeal the state statute that authorizes the use of red light cameras to enforce traffic infractions. It is the latest strike in an increasingly-popular movement to end the use of such devices.

The bill is expected to again get a vote on the House floor, where a similar one passed 83-10 during last year's session but did not get to the Senate floor for a vote before the session ended. The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program Law is named for a Bradenton man killed by a driver who ran a red-light in 2003. 

It passed in 2010 but immediately met backlash from opponents. Many argued that the devices were ineffective in reducing fatalities, as nearly all (including Wandall's case) involve a driver who has unknowingly blown through a signal that has already been red, rather than a driver who enters the intersection just after it turns red from yellow—the behavior the devices are most successful at changing. 

Additionally, critics note that it reverses due process by punishing a vehicle's owner rather than the driver, and then shifting the burden of proof from law enforcement to the person the car is registered to. The practice has also been attacked as being coercive, as it threatens a higher fine and points for anyone who exercises their right to a hearing and loses while failing to offer the lesser punishment to offenders who are cited for the same violation by a law enforcement officer. 

Opponents also cite increases in rear-end collisions at intersections that have the cameras in use, though this trend tends to decrease over time as drivers become aware of the cameras and modify habits. Some legislators have argued that the state should focus on standardizing the timing of yellow lights, which can vary by several seconds, if the goal is really to reduce accidents rather than create revenue. 

In Manatee County, the devices were criticized when then-Sheriff Brad Steube said that the vendor the county contracted to install and manage the devices ignored his input on its most dangerous intersections. Of a list of 10 accident prone sites, Steube said the vendor used only one and instead put the cameras on intersections where there were a high frequency of right turns on red, where drivers could be cited frequently for not coming to a complete stop. Steube refused to have his deputies cite such infractions if they didn't feel they were warranted.

The City of Bradenton has not been operating its red-light cameras since mid-2016 and opted last year to take a wait-and-see approach regarding legal challenges and upcoming legislation. It's website currently notes: "This City's red-light cameras are currently turned off. This board is inactive until further notice."

Reader Comments
Frank R. English[email protected]
JAN 27  •  OK, no red light cameras. Never was enforcement for running red lights unless done right in front of law enforcement. Typical for our reps not anything to correct the issue. So you must driver super defensive even when you have the green