Red Light Cameras | A Ploy to Gouge Drivers

moneyThere are very few people who support the use of red light cameras, least of all me, and the ones who do are generally politicians. These traffic cameras have one purpose and one purpose only, and that is it to continue to add pork to the traffic ticket “tax,” as I refer to it. Red light traffic cameras are found throughout the State of Florida, and although our offices are in South Florida, we can represent anyone within the 67 counties of Florida. As such, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of things going on around the state that can have far-reaching effects on our clients.

One such issue recently occurred in Manatee County. According to an investigation by 10 Investigates, Manatee County added four new red light traffic cameras in 2013, but they were not installed in those areas that typically had higher incidents of accidents, but instead were installed in areas that generally have a high number of tickets issued. This is contrary to the argument often used that these traffic cameras are justified to reduce the number of both injuries and property damage at these targeted intersections.

The choice of location for these new traffic cameras is contrary to the federal guidelines which state that the cameras should only be used in very dangerous areas where other measures were unsuccessful at reducing accidents. This does not seem to be the case for Manatee County. In fact, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has identified 10 of the county’s most dangerous intersections and the only one of these 10 to currently have a red light camera is the location of Cortez Road W and 26th Street W.

With seven other red light cameras in the county, the choice of location for them begs the question, “Why?” The answer is simple enough – revenue, which explains the traffic camera located at the exit road of the Ellenton Factory Outlets. Although not one of the areas that is considered especially dangerous, it is a high volume location, therefore high traffic ticket area. When you couple this kind of thinking with the county’s policy to ticket just about anyone they can for committing a rolling right-hand turn, you come up with not only a great way to make money to refill the county coffers, but unfortunately, you steer local and visitor commerce away from contributing to the local economy. As Manatee County increasingly gains the reputation of having traffic camera “traps,” many visitors have written to the local television station, expressing their disdain for these practices after having been the victims of red light traffic cameras.

“This is a money-making scam,” Richard Armstrong from Towson, Maryland, wrote in a letter to 10 Investigates and public officials. “I have to tell you I will be thinking long and hard before I return to Florida.”

Mr. Armstrong’s take on the revenue stream that this creates has made him consider excluding Florida entirely from his travel plans, and we all know that nearly every part of Florida relies heavily on the tourist industry.

Senator Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, is a supporter of red light traffic cameras yet he recently stated that he is willing to see some changes made in the current status quo if it helps drivers and legislators to glean a clear understanding of the meaning of a “careful and prudent” right turn.

Realizing the sensitivity of this issue, Senator Glavano said, “We survive on visitors. You never want to get the reputation of being Draconian or visitor unfriendly.”

“I am moving my RV to Sarasota County and will not frequent any business in Manatee County,” promised Dr. Marilyn Terry, a seasonal visitor from Missouri. “In addition, I am going to scour the Internet for online sites to leave reviews regarding Manatee County.”

Dr. Terry’s obvious ire will not only cause her to spend her funds elsewhere, but using the power of social media gives her the means to try to sway others away from contributing to the economy of this unincorporated area.

These letters were sent by tourists that visit the Manatee area, but what about those who live there and have to deal with these money-making traffic cameras on a daily basis? One email sent by long-time, local resident, Jack DiPasqua said, “It seems little more than a fund-raising effort. I’d rather have donated it to my kid’s county public schools instead of getting fleeced by the Manatee County traffic folks.”

That’s what it feels like to anyone who gets a red light traffic camera ticket – a fleecing.

The article produced by 10 Investigates states that before July 2013, the county revenue generated by its red light camera safety program (RCL) was so insignificant that it scarcely covered the cost of implementing the program.  In fact, a county spokesman stated, “Manatee’s red light cameras are intended to change behaviors and not to generate revenue. After eight or nine months since installation, the county has received a total of about $600 (after expenses).”

Then on July 1, 2013, a change in Florida law began requiring the sheriff’s office to push the use of the red light traffic cameras. When Manatee County began to enforce “rolling right” traffic tickets, the funds from its RLC program saw a huge leap in the amount of fines to $4 million with half of that being funneled through the county. This seems to be a growing trend throughout the state, even though the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which laid the foundation of standards for implementing the RLC program, advocates that officers should not issue traffic citations when drivers make a rolling stop in a “careful and prudent” manner.

Although legislators have indicated that towns should not put profits over safety, the recent issues with Manatee County targeting high-traffic areas instead of high incident areas is indicative of an ever-widening problem in Florida. If you find that you have been the victim of these red light traffic camera tickets, especially one involving a rolling stop, give us a call at the Traffic Ticket Team at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation.


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