The arguments about the value of red light cameras in cities across Florida continue. The cameras have been installed in many cities across the United States and are designed to catch drivers who pass through a red light at an intersection. There seems to be no debate about their ability to make money for the municipal authority that uses them. In 2012, Florida red light cameras made over $100 million in fines, shared between the manufacturers and operators of the cameras and the city authorities who use them.
Now, a resident of Brooksville is trying to get the city to ban red light cameras and is out waving a sign in and around the city to advertise the petition she is trying to get signed by those who agree with her. Shirley Miketinac and her husband Pat have spent many evenings at city council meetings trying to persuade councilors to get the cameras removed and end the association with the company that makes and operates them, Sensys America. They believe that many residents of the city do not want them and feel intimidated by their use. They also think that drivers would be less likely to go through a red light at an intersection if the time allocated for the yellow light was lengthened. Increasing the speed allowed for a right turn on red would also reduce the need for cameras, according to the Miketinac’s.
Another similar move has come from businessman and one time political aspirant, Robert Osmond. He has been collecting signatures from Brooksville residents to get the red light camera question on the next general election ballot paper. He needs 477 verifiable signatures to achieve this and says he already has around half of those signatures.
The election is due to be held in November next year and the contract with Sensys is up for renewal a month beforehand, so Osmond thinks the red light camera issue will be a sensitive one for candidates at the election.
According to the Florida Department of Revenue, Brooksville’s red light cameras netted over a million dollars in revenue for the year July 2012 to July 2013. The revenue comes from the $158 fines that are given to drivers who are caught by the cameras. Half of the revenue goes to Sensys and the other half to the municipal authorities.
The controversy about the use of red light cameras has been on going for some years now and is certainly not confined to Brooksville. A couple of years ago, a Tampa Bay news station reported that officials in Florida had reduced the length of time that yellow lights operated below U.S. federal minimum recommendations so that infractions would more likely happen. The report cited that a half second reduction would double the number of red light camera citations and therefore a doubling of revenue collected because of them.
The report also mentioned that at a single intersection, the time allocated for the yellow light was increased from 3 to 4.3 seconds, resulting in a massive drop (90%) of citations being issued.
Most drivers who get a citation from a red light camera find it hard to fight the charge, as the license plates are normally caught by the camera. The fine is payable by whoever the car is registered to. The only advantage of red light cameras to drivers who get citations for red light offenses is that they do not lead to points being added to the license and insurance companies are not notified of the offense, so insurance rates are unlikely to be affected.
While few traffic citation lawyers advise fighting a red light camera citation, the situation is certainly different for citations handed out by a police officer. These will incur 3 points on your license, if you plead guilty that could mean a loss of license if you have enough points. It will also mean a rise in your insurance rates once the conviction is notified. If you do get a traffic citation which is likely to have a serious effect on your life, the best thing you can do is to plead not guilty and get a traffic ticket attorney to help you fight the ticket.