Last Updated: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 5:37 PM EDT
Red Light Cameras: Safety Patrol for the people or Cash Cow for local governments?
You will be affected by more red light cameras if you drive in Orange County.
There are currently 10 cameras in place, but over the next two years there will be an additional 80.
County officials met to discuss the controversial topic. They decided on a motion to open up the bidding process for the company that will be responsible for installing and maintaining the additional cameras.
There have been over 20,000 violations since the program in the county started last year, according to county officials. That's brought in more than $2,297,541 – over $412,000 went directly to the county. The rest of the money went to Tallahassee and American Traffic Solutions, the company that runs the cameras.
Officials said the red light camera program is about changing the mentality of drivers – trying to make them safer and more aware of how they are driving near red lights. However, critics say it's just a way for the government to bring in more money.
Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs said she knows it is difficult to get a ticket. She said, "I know it's disappointing, but what's disappointing is killing somebody when you run a red light. We have got to change the behavior of our drivers here in Central Florida, in Orange County -- that red means stop and this is the only affective way to do that."
The first 40 cameras will go up in 2013 and the additional 40 will go up the following year. If you are caught and given a ticket, fines start at $160.
The county said the money collected from the red light cameras go for safety programs in the county. Officials said they want to make intersections safer for people walking and driving in the various locations. However they said none of the money generated has been spent.
Civil rights group attacks red light camera plan
The Florida Civil Rights Association issue the following statement in response to Orange County's announcement to increase red light cameras countywide:
It is obvious that Orange county officials are taking a low rent discount volume approach to scamming motorists out of their hard earned dollars, said Henry Stowe, Transportation Chairman of the Florida Civil Rights Association. Since 2007, the FCRA has held public protests, testified before legislative committees and organized opposition to red light camera programs in Florida.
J. Willie David, III the group’s president stated “it’s about the money, not public safety.” Orange County's obvious attempt to scam the public on the alleged benefits of red light cameras is a thinly disguised “revenue grab,” he stated. Orange county officials are conducting an organized campaign to fleece motorists out $158 while doing nothing for public safety.
Government shakedown using red light cameras to scam motorists will end one day at ballot box or by court ruling, David said. Today’s public safety scam device use to generate revenue is red light cameras; and tomorrow is will be speed cameras, school bus cameras, stop sign cameras, railroad crossing cameras, or crosswalk cameras, stated David. These so call modern day pyramid or ponzi scheme will collapse because of a lack of cash flow generated from motorists. Motorists are catching on to the government’s scam and starting to fight back in court, David added.
Henry Stowe, the group's transportation chairman states that if safety was the objective, county officials would improve traffic flow by shortening exceedingly long red light cycles and lengthening amber light times. Lengthening amber light time is a time proven method that reduces light violations and intersection crashes. Stowe states that improving traffic flow and safety is “not one of their objectives.” Stowe cites data that show that red light cameras actually increase crashes, injuries and fatalities.
Orange county's move to install up to 90 additional cameras is “unconstitutional, unsafe and outrageous,” said Stowe. He explained that red light cameras have the same problems today as they had two years ago. The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act is vague in its wording and cameras still ticket the owner of the vehicle, not the driver. In addition, they have no “no basis in safety,” as red light intersection fatalities dropped prior to red light cameras being introduced on Florida roadways, Stowe stated.
Just because red light cameras have infested the streets of Orlando and Orange county for almost 5 years doesn't make it right, he stated. The more these devices spread, the higher their negative impact will be on Orange County motorists. “More people will receive largely unjustified tickets,” he said. Stowe points to studies showing that the majority of tickets issued are for less than one second into the red light cycle, while the majority of accidents occur more than 5 seconds after the light has changed. “Today, like yesterday, they are willfully ticketing people for technical fouls,” he said. “This is devious, dishonest and disgusting,” he said, “a triple threat.” Stowe also points to the fact that courts are beginning to reject red light camera tickets. They simply do not have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused actually committed the violations.
In this election year, Stowe suggests that politicians should throw these devices in a landfill instead of expanding their use. If not, the FCRA urges its members and Orange county residents to throw these politicians supporting this highway robbery down a well.