Red Light Cameras and Red Light Camera Tickets in Florida

red light camera warning
Red light cameras do not save lives. Red light cameras are just another way for governments to raise money.

Red light cameras were introduced in the 1960’s. Israel installed them in 1969. Gulf Breeze, near Pensacola, introduced them to Florida in 2005.

How Does a Red Light Camera Work?

A sensor is installed under the road, in the middle of each lane. The sensor is activated by vehicles traveling over 10 MPH.

The camera takes a photo after the sensor is activated. A second photo is taken when the vehicle is in the intersection.

Both photos are mailed to the owner, with a magnified image of the vehicle’s license plate. Most drivers also receive a Web link to a video of their vehicle, as well as a $158 ticket. Drivers have 30 days to appeal the ticket.

Drivers will have less than 30 days, if they are driving a rented car, because the traffic citation will be sent to the rental company. The rental company will identify the driver, and Florida will send them a ticket.

The fine increases to $258, if the driver does not pay the ticket within 30 days. The extra hundred dollars is not added to the fine. It is a second ticket.

You can appeal the fine, but do not expect to win. Clearwater began appeals on September 25, 2013. Eight people challenged their red light camera tickets during the first court session. They all lost.

Although Clearwater charged $55 for their first appeals courts, Florida cities can charge up to $250 if you appeal the ticket in traffic court, and lose.

You will pay $100 in most of Florida’s other cities.

Red Light Cameras in Florida

Attorney General Pam Bondi denied a request by Palm Beach County to install red light cameras in 1997. In 2010, Governor Charlie Crist signed the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, allowing the use of red light cameras throughout Florida. What changed?

Who Was Mark Wandall?

Mark Wandall was a 30-year-old insurance agent, when he was killed in a 2003 traffic accident. Another driver went through a red light, possibly because they were speaking to a child in the back seat. Melissa Wandall, Mark’s wife, gave birth to their daughter three weeks after the accident.

Melissa Wandall used part of Mark’s life insurance to create The Mark Wandall Foundation. Ms. Wandall is also the President of National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR). NCSR lobbies Florida municipal governments to install red light cameras.

NCSR is funded by American Traffic Solutions, the company that sold Florida most of its red light cameras.

Lobbying for Red Light Cameras

The manufacturers of these devices are paid a percentage of the fines which are generated by these devices. This explains why American Traffic Solutions spent over $1.5 million dollars for lobbyists and political contributions from 2007-2011.

Some manufacturers get carried away. Redflex, an Australian manufacturer, was the lowest bidder for 80 cameras in Orange County. However their bid was rejected, because they allegedly spent $2 million dollars bribing officials in Chicago. They were awarded the Chicago contract, but lost it during the ensuing investigation. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana ended their relationship with Redflex after another scandal in 2010. Jefferson Parish officials voted to refund $19.7 million that was generated by Redflex’s cameras.

Shorter Yellow Lights

Greed is more powerful than safety. Shorter yellow lights increase revenue, but they also increase rear-end collisions.

The New Jersey Transportation Department suspended 21 red light programs after discovering that yellow (caution) light times were reduced to increase revenue.

The Federal Highway Administration recommends:

Research shows that yellow-interval duration is a significant factor affecting the frequency of red-light running and that increasing yellow time to meet the needs of traffic can dramatically reduce red-light running.

and

The length of the yellow change interval should be increased at any intersection where the existing yellow change interval time is less than the time needed for a motorist traveling at the prevailing speed of traffic to reach the intersection and stop comfortably before the signal turns red.

The FHWA added:

Cameras should be considered/installed only after engineering solutions have been proven ineffective where there is a red-light running problem.

St. Petersburg issued 1,645 tickets between October 29, 2011 through November 30, 2012, at intersections where the yellow light interval was reduced.

45% of St. Petersburg’s ticket revenue came from tickets that were issued half of a second after the light changed. 31% of tickets were issued to drivers who entered an intersection 3/10 of a second after the light changed.

Senior Citizens Need More Time

Older people need more time to stop. Florida includes 16 of the top 25 counties, with the highest median ages in the United States.

In the Tampa metropolitan area, Pinellas County is ranked 23rd. Pasco County is eleventh. Hernando County is third.

Floridians Get Less Time

In 2010, the Florida Department of Transportation released guidelines for yellow lights. Yellow lights must be visible for 3-6 seconds.

The Florida Department of Transportation announced that yellow lights will be displayed for an extra 4/10 of a second, by the end of 2013.

Florida DOT spokesperson, Kris Carson said:

That .4 seconds we’re hoping will help people.

Photographs of Rolling Right Turns

In 2012, more than one third of St. Petersburg traffic tickets were issued to drivers who were photographed making a right turn on a red light. St. Petersburg raised about $1 million dollars from right-on-red tickets. Florida raised about $24 million.

However, only 0.4% of accidents are caused by “rolling right turns” on red lights.

The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program states:

A notice of violation and a traffic citation may not be issued for failure to stop at a red light if the driver is making a right-hand turn in a careful and prudent manner at an intersection where right-hand turns are permissible. A notice of violation and a traffic citation may not be issued under this section if the driver of the vehicle came to a complete stop after crossing the stop line and before turning right if permissible at a red light, but failed to stop before crossing over the stop line or other point at which a stop is required.

In Pinellas County, traffic Judge Ben Overton said that he would not uphold right turn tickets, if the vehicle was traveling under 12 MPH.

Unfortunately, greedy camera companies photograph cars in the the right turn lane at a higher speed, about 100 feet from the intersection.

The right turn cameras also make mistakes. One driver received a ticket for making a right turn on red at 96 MPH on the corner of 34th Street and 22nd Avenue, in St. Petersburg.

Florida drivers must come to a complete stop before making a right turn at a red light, to avoid an automated $158 ticket.

Where Have Red Light Cameras Been Banned?

The following states have banned red light cameras:

AlaskaArkansasIndianaMaineMichigan
MinnesotaMississippiMontanaNebraskaNevada
New HampshireSouth CarolinaUtahWest VirginiaWisconsin

Florida earned more than $100 million from red light cameras last year.

Nevertheless, the following cities have removed them:

BrooksvilleOcalaRoyal Palm BeachHaverhill
Lake WorthVero BeachPompano BeachSatellite Beach

The Future of Red Light Cameras in Florida

Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes represents parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Brandes also chairs the Committee on Transportation. On September 4, 2013 he introduced legislation to ban automated cameras.

The goals of this bill are:

Repealing provisions relating to the installation and use of traffic infraction detectors to enforce specified provisions when a driver fails to stop at a traffic signal; amending provisions relating to distribution of proceeds, enforcement by traffic infraction enforcement officers using such detectors, procedures for disposition of citations, compliance, registration and renewal of license plates, and penalties, etc.

Red Light, Green Light, 1-2

Florida’s red light cameras, remind me of Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3. It was a popular game, while I was a child in Brooklyn, New York. We usually played on an outdoor handball court, in the playground on Homecrest Avenue, between Avenue Z and Shore Parkway.

A few boys lined up next to fence. One person, chosen to be “It,” put his face next to the wall. The object of the game, was to touch “It“ while he recited “Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3,” at various speeds. The boys had to stop moving, before It finished speaking.

It turned around, to face the other boys, when he finished. If It caught someone moving, they were forced to return to the fence. The person that touched It, replaced him.

Florida’s version is “Red Light, Green Light, 1-2.” Florida should extend the yellow lights, to increase safety.

Florida should follow the recommendations in the Department of Transportation’s report on “crash reduction factors.”

Florida should choose safety over revenue.

Comments

Henry

In her speeches, Melissa Wandall – who as this blog mentions now is the President of the NCSR, the lobby front for ATS – doesn’t mention that the driver of the car in which her husband was riding had been drinking. Not legally drunk, but buzzed. He hit the gas when his green arrow came on, evidently without confirming that opposing traffic had stopped. Had he not been buzzed he might have noticed, directly in front of him and coming straight at him, the headlights of the red light runner.

The driver was Ms. Wandall’s brother. You can imagine that if it had been anyone else driving, Ms. Wandall (or anyone else) would have sued the driver for his last dime. But she couldn’t do that, couldn’t punish her brother, so she punishes US with red light cameras.

Mark Wandall’s death provides a couple lessons for us to teach our children of driving age: (1) Don’t drive buzzed, because when you are buzzed you drop your guard, you don’t drive defensively. (2) Don’t swing a left turn – even if you have a green arrow – until you’ve looked around.

I would welcome a campaign by Ms. Wandall that focused on those two lessons. She’s a good speaker and by telling the whole truth about the accident that killed her husband, she could save a lot of lives, nationwide. And no one would have to install cameras.

Mitchell D. Miller

Hello Henry,
Thank you for explaining Mark Wandall’s accident.

Driving is dangerous. A broken red light changed my life. I never wanted to drive again.

Red light cameras annoy me, because of the shortened yellow lights. I am also afraid of being rear-ended, if I come to a complete stop before making a right turn.

I just updated Wikipedia’s article on red light cameras, to mention that Melissa Wandall is the President of NCSR.

Incidentally, I found your site, HighwayRobbery.net, cited in Wikipedia’s article.

I will be writing more about red light cameras on this blog, so stay tuned.

Best wishes,
Mitchell

Paul Henry

For more information about the red light camera scheme in Florida, please Google “red light camera reference page” to see some of my work (link removed for blog posting).

I am a retired FHP trooper that has done extensive research on the scheme and proved it does not result in safer roads. To do so, I obtained all crashes in Florida for 2005-2011 from the DOT. I have never received a camera scheme ticket. I have documented several people here that have been wrongly ticketed.

One main fact is that there were 53 fatal red light violation (RLV) crashes here in 2010 (DHSMV figure), and 72 in 2011, the first full year of the camera scheme. The DHSMV failed to report crash causes for 2011, so the only way to determine the actual number is to have the DOT crash data as I do.

Paul Henry

As you noted, Gulf Breeze, FL was the first city to use the red light camera scheme, despite only having had one red light violation (RLV) crash int he prior 12 months, and it was caused by a drunk driver.

The scheme worked so well that the police chief that advocated for the scheme to get it there wrote to the city manager in April 2011 that “In the future, there is significant revenue to be generated by this venture”. He urged a “back office” be established for ticket processing. A few months later, he formed a business to do so, and a few months after that he retired and his business was awarded a $2,000/month contract to process the tickets.

Turning law enforcement into a for-profit scheme is a bad idea.

Paul Henry

Florida got red light cameras thanks to former representative Ron Regan, who after leaving office went to work for ATS. He was last seen lobbying for them in Michigan this year.

In addition to their lobbying expenses, state campaign records show ATS has paid over $520,000 to Florida politicians from 2008-early 2013. While this and the listed lobbying fees seem like a lot of money, their return has been many times this amount. They also have a business where profits are ensured using the force of government- don’t pay the ticket and your driver license and tag are suspended.

Mitchell D. Miller

Hello Paul:

Thank you for providing lots of interesting info. Ron Reagan’s comment was amusing:

If you are in a vehicle on a public highway, there is no expectation of privacy

What does privacy have to do with safety?

I also found interesting info on your site. I was not aware that Jeff Brandes originally supported cameras.

I want to find out what happened to his latest bill. I will write about it soon.

Best wishes,

Mitchell