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Bill Seeks to Restrict Red-Light Camera Use

A new legislative proposal by Florida Sen.  Jeff Brandes would place greater restrictions on how cities use red-light cameras.

The St. Petersburg Republican, who has been an outspoken critic of the use of the cameras, says they are being used to fill city and county coffers, not improve public safety.

“We’re bringing in 100 million dollars a year,  and we can’t look our constituents in the eye and tell them we’re making them any safer, ”he said. “And I think that - that deeply troubles me. It deeply, deeply troubles me,” he said.

One part of the bill is a call for annual reporting from all red-light cameras and state mandated studies showing a municipality studied alternative methods before installing them.

The bill is opposed by the Florida League of Cities and the Association of Counties.

Since Florida passed its first red-light camera law in 2010, their use has been controversial in the Tampa Bay area and around the state.

In particular, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals ruled against the city of Hollywood in a case that put many cities on notice.

In fact, St. Petersburg operated 22 cameras until it ended its program in September. Brooksville, Oldsmar and South Pasadena also have chosen to suspend or end their use of red-light cameras.

Some cities in the area have not changed their policies.

The city of Tampa plans to continue using its red-light cameras at 23 intersections.  And Clearwater currently operates two cameras, although a September 2014 report showed injuries increased in the two years after their installation.

The lawsuit in Hollywood centers on the use of third parties to issue citations to drivers caught driving through red lights.

Hollywood, like Tampa contracts with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) a private traffic monitoring company based in Tempe, Arizona.

Complicating the issue was the discovery that some municipalities shortened the intervals of yellow lights at many intersections, increasing the number of red-light violations. In response the Florida Department of Transportation increased the minimum interval of time for yellow lights statewide in June 2013.

Information from Florida Public Radio, the Tampa Bay Times and WTSP.com was used in reporting this story.

M.S. Butler joined WUSF in October, 2014 after becoming the first recipient of the Stephen Noble Intern Scholarship. A Bay Area resident since 1999, he became a full-time student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in Fall 2012.He has written articles for the school newspaper The Crow’s Nest covering topics ranging from seasonal flu shots to students carrying guns on campus.
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