Will this finally be the year Florida bans red-light cameras? State Sen. Jeff Brandes sure hopes so. The Tampa Bay Republican has introduced legislation for the past four years to ban the controversial traffic devices. only to see the proposal die every session. His latest attempt has made it through the state Senate's Transportation Committee yesterday by a narrow vote of 4-3.
Brandes believes that not only are red-light cameras basically a backdoor tax but that they've actually made roads less safe. The bill analysis notes that traffic accidents are up 50 percent in Florida from 2011 to 2014. While that can't possibly all be blamed on the introduction of red-light cameras, several studies have found that increasing yellow-light times is a more effective way to increase intersection safety than red-light cameras. Still, supporters of the cameras claim intersections with the devices are safer than intersections without.
The bill was passed in the Transportation Committee along party lines. Republicans voted "yea" while Democrats voted "nay."
A House version of the bill had slightly more bipartisan support when it passed the House's Economic Affairs Committee last month 13-3, with two Democrats joining the "yea" column.
State Sen. Geraldine F. Thompson, a Democrat who voted against the bill, told the Bradenton Herald that she doesn't believe the state government should be telling local government what to do and that local police forces don't have the resources to safely patrol all busy intersections.
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Red-light tickets cost violators $158, with $75 going to local governments.
Red-light cameras have faced legal pushback in the courts before, with several decisions coming down against various municipalities' red-light- camera programs. However, no decision has effectively banned red-light cameras; they have only led to municipalities changing their policies and practices regarding red-light cameras (although a few have decided to drop them altogether).
A 2013 law had previously forbidden ticketing drivers who were merely making a right turn at a red light as long as they made a stop.
The Senate version is still on its way to three more committees while the House version is heading to the Appropriations Committee.