I have made my feelings explicitly clear about getting red light cameras tossed out of Florida, and recently we were thiiiiisssss close. Just when so many of us who drive in Miami-Dade thought that we could breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of these money pits getting the boot, Florida legislators once again let us down on this issue. Some of us were finally convinced that these legislators were going to do the right thing and get rid of these red light cameras across the state.
Unfortunately, it would seem that the collective voices, and the deep pockets, of the lobbyists for American Traffic Solutions (ATS) have a greater say in what goes on in our legislature than our own representatives. ATS is a private Tempe, AZ-based company that installs and maintains these monstrosities which crank out such tremendous capital that lobbyists for this company hold sway over our politicians…and those same politicians once again caved into the pressure of the almighty dollar. Although ATS is not the only such company, it earns over $170,000 for just three traffic cameras in a Broward County town, plus a portion of each $158 ticket it processes, and they have 64 red light cameras installed in Florida. That is a lot of revenue for both ATS and the State of Florida. This doesn’t even include any of their school bus arm cameras, speed cameras, or plate pass cameras. Does that money go back into your community? Of course not. It continues to pad the bank accounts of these privately held companies which don’t even operate out of our state. It’s easy to see how they can afford to continue to lobby our representatives to ensure that their financial interests are maintained. Every driver who receives one of these tickets-by-proxy should be outraged.
As you can see, red light cameras are nothing more than cash cows. There is little evidence to support that they increase safety. Often, proponents of the cameras cite that there has been a reduction in side-impact crashes at the intersections where these cameras are located. What they have conveniently failed to report is that rear-end collisions have greatly increased and these proponents also fail to admit that a great majority of the traffic tickets that are generated by these traffic cameras are right-hand turn tickets. The revenue stream that these cameras generate is so tremendous that it is easy to see why local governments sit back and let the money coming rolling in. The thinking seems to be that it much more cost-efficient to hire a company to install, maintain, and monitor these cameras than to hire more police officers. Not that the cameras are just, accurate, or able to determine a correct right-hand turn – just cheaper than a cop.
To their credit there are some representatives who have been pushing back against the local governments. Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Representative, Jeff Brandes, is one of the most vocal proponents of repealing the laws that permit cities to use red light cameras. During the legislative session on February 7, both Brandes and Representative Frank Artiles called a news conference before the Senate. The purpose of the press conference was to reveal that the legislative Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability (OPPAGA) conducted a survey of local governments which showed that 56% of the survey’s respondents had not even tried to implement other safety measures before installing red light traffic cameras. The implication is this – why try better safety measures such as increasing the length of yellow lights when it is much easier to hire a company who has a vested interest in making sure to keep milking that cash cow?
Granted, there are some Florida cities that have taken it upon themselves at a local level to get rid of red light traffic ticket cameras because they have found them to either not be as effective as expected or because they are fraught with problems. Hallandale Beach is one town that has done away with them and recently. Claremont announced that it has issued 3,000 tickets in a two-month period as a result of its red light cameras. That’s one ticket for every tenth person in this small town which has a population of just over 30,000 people. Additionally, the city decided to trash 150 of these red light traffic camera tickets because 9 out of 10 of them were issued to drivers who were making a legal right-on-red turn. All of this controversy has also caused Claremont to put the kibosh on plans to triple the number of cameras that it currently has in place.
The reticence by legislators to act on a state level regarding red light traffic ticket cameras makes one thing pretty clear. Since many look the other way to avoid acknowledging the issues that red light cameras cause with little concrete data to support the supposition that they increase safety, it seems the most effective way to stand up for the rights of Florida drivers is to address the issue on a local level. Local politicians tend to be more concerned about the opinions of local voters than politicians at the state level. Many of the Florida cities that have repealed the use of these cameras have done so because local outcry has been significant. Local politicians are more inclined to listen to the constituents in their area, especially if they have aspirations of advancing in the political arena. Even at the state level, if enough citizens call, write, or email their state representatives, sooner or later, it will behoove them to eventually take action. Even in politics, no man is an island and the greater number of voices raised, the more likely there will be a positive outcome.
Finally, there is another major step that drivers can take in combating “big brother”, and that is to fight back. Although I have been a traffic ticket attorney in South Florida for many years, that statement is not self-serving. The more that the court systems have to defend these tickets, the less profit there is for the city or town to continue feeding the grist mill. Of course, as an experienced traffic ticket attorney, fighting these traffic tickets is something I do well. We have represented hundreds of clients who have received red light traffic camera tickets and have done so with a great rate of success. If you have received a red light camera traffic ticket or any other type of traffic ticket, please give us a call for your free consultation at (954) 967-9888.