New Florida State Bill to Allow Use of Red-Light Cameras

The red-light camera controversy continued unabated in the last few weeks since in Palm Bay, Florida, the penalty for running a red light went from car owners receiving a warning letter to a $125 civil fine. Although the use of cameras is against Florida state law, many counties and cities have continued to use cameras to catch and fine red-light runners based on loopholes in the law. No camera has been placed on any state or county maintained roadway.

Red-light cameras have been used since September 2008 in Orlando. Drivers caught passing a red light are cited under the city statues, rather than under state traffic laws. High concentrations of cameras exist not only in Orlando but also in Tampa and Sarasota. Cameras are also being used in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and Palm Coast. The wide use of cameras has resulted in a website identifying the intersections where cameras are located.

Legislators have filed several bills addressing the issue, three of which would legalize the use of cameras and leave it up to local governments to decide how the cameras are used. That seems to be where the problem lies. Many feel that leaving regulation to local governments will neither address the confusion over details of the use of cameras nor reduce the potential for abuse. If the state is going to allow the use of red-light cameras, the state should set clear and consistent standards.

The one detail all seem to agree on is the amount of the fine. It will be $155. A proposal for distribution of fines collected is for half to stay in the local jurisdiction and the other half to go to the state. House Bill 325, sponsored by Roads, Bridges & Ports Policy Committee and Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, would define the use of cameras and how the fines collected would be used.

Statistically, the intersections where the red-light cameras are in use have shown a reduction in the number of car accidents and injuries. Typically, if drivers are aware certain intersections have cameras, they are more likely to pay closer attention in those areas. However, opponents of the cameras say that motorists who see the cameras tend to throw on their brakes to avoid being photographed running a light and that, as a result, drivers behind them are more likely to strike them.

Local governments are cashing in. Hillsborough County collected $2.4 million in one year from 10 cameras. Drivers are fighting back. Miami-Dade County Circuit Court judge Gerald Bagley ruled that red-light cameras cannot be legally used to issue traffic citations in the state of Florida and dismissed charges against a motorist.

This fact still remains: a staggering number of drivers run red-lights, causing accidents and injuries to others. Yellow means "prepare to stop." It does not mean "hit the gas."

If you or a family member has been injured due to the negligence of another driver, call me. You can also contact me via email. I've been helping victims and their families for more than 30 years at my Panama City, Florida, law practice. I'm available 24/7 for your new injury questions.

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