Will red-light camera revenue trump safety?

This legislative session may be the most opportune time in years to eliminate red-light cameras in Florida altogether.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ recently released report corroborates what many opponents of red-light cameras have maintained for a long time: red-light cameras at intersections increase accidents cumulatively by nearly 15 percent.

This Red Light Camera Summary Report accumulated data from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2105. Two reasons provided for the increase include an increase in vehicle miles traveled and the increase in crash reports with accurate location information (latitude and longitude).

What isn’t immediately evident in the Red Light Camera Summary Report is the significant number of jurisdictions which reported increased crashes as a result of the red-light cameras. Of the 73.5 percent of jurisdictions reporting (only 50 out of 68), 48 percent indicated an increase in sideswipe crashes; 60 percent saw an increase in front-to-rear crashes (usually because the person decides to stop at the yellow light at the last minute and is rear-ended) and 60 percent witnessed an increase in overall crashes at intersections with red-light cameras. So almost 29.4 percent of the jurisdictions with red-light cameras chose not to report anything period. Was this lackadaisicalness or purposeful evasion? We will never know.

If 18 more jurisdictions had reported, it is likely that a 29.4 percent increase in participative reporting would have elevated the actual crash figures beyond 15 percent.

Two bills in the Florida Legislature aim to repeal the use of red-light cameras.

Sen. Jeff Brandes has introduced SB 168 in the Senate. Rep. Frank Artilles has introduced HB 4027 in the House. Though HB 4017 narrowly passed out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, it still must go to the full House for a vote. Both bills will be difficult to pass because of resistance – as Florida earned more than $62 million off the red-light camera fines in 2013. Similarly, local revenue from cities and municipalities throughout the state was more than $56 million for that same year.

You may be asking, will legislators choose revenue generation ahead of your personal safety?

Term-limited legislators often pursue lucrative contracts and salaries with the very companies or lobbyists who petitioned them to influence their votes while they were incumbent politicians.

For example, take former state Rep. Ron Reagan, who in 2010 sponsored the first red-light camera bill HB 325 which rendered red-light cameras authorized by state law. According to public records, Reagan only received $500 in 2008 from American Traffic Solutions as a campaign donation, but after leaving office began working for the National Coalition for Safer Roads, an ATS front group. ATS is the largest red-light camera company operating in Florida. Reagan recently turned up in Michigan to lobby about a proposed law allowing red-light cameras there.

One of the groups to which ATS paid money is ironically called “Protect Our Liberty,” which according to public records has raised more than $1.2 million in Florida since 2011. This group is operated by Sen. Andy Gardiner, current president of the Florida Senate.

According to Florida Campaign Finance Records, ATS has contributed more than $810,000 to politicians, political parties, PACS and committees and lobbyists. Considering the amount of contributions to local and municipal candidates and elected officials, that amount is most likely well more than $1 million, as reported by WTSP TV in Tampa which did a series of scathing stories on the shorter yellow lights, ATS and its campaign contributions. ATS places money into the campaign coffers of key legislators to retain the red-light camera fines’ gravy train and the wheels go round and round year after year without fail.

“Once the red-light camera law was in place, local governments with people such as city council members and police administrators then began lobbying legislators at taxpayer expense,” Paul Henry a 25-year Florida Highway Patrol veteran says. As opposition to the red-light cameras grew in 2013, ATS contributions to politicians grew commensurately from 2010-2013 as evidenced by public campaign finance records Henry compiled for his 2014 legislative analysis on red-light cameras published in the November issue of Liberty News.

“If the repeal bill is bottled up in a committee, chances are that particular senator has been bribed with campaign contributions from the red-light camera industry,” asserted Mark Cross, State Director of the Florida Campaign for Liberty. Cross expects the cameras will be repealed in the House, but says it will be a little tougher in the Senate. “All you have to do is follow the money.  The money will tell the tale.”

And Jim Walker of the American Motorists Association believes the opportunity is now. “There is a very real chance to end the money-grab scam of red-light cameras statewide,” he said. He urges Florida residents to contact their state representatives, senators, and the governor to politely but clearly insist that the bills HB 4027 and SB 168 to ban red-light cameras become law.  “Let each official know you find the cameras to be unacceptable and that complete removal is the only acceptable solution,” he said.

We believe he makes a good point. Here are the decision makers to contact:

Sen. Jack Latvala 850-487-5020 SB 168, latvala.jack.web@flsenate.gov

Chair, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development

Sen. Andy Gardiner 850-487-5013 SB 168, gardiner.andy.web@flsenate.gov

Senate President

Rep. Richard Corcoran 850-717-5037 HB 4027, richard.corcoran@myfloridahouse.gov

Chair, House Appropriations Committee

Gov. Rick Scott 850-488-7146





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