Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Red light cameras win legislative approval, with road rage, texting still in the mix

TALLAHASSEE — Florida intersections could soon see a new proliferation of red light cameras if Gov. Charlie Crist signs a traffic safety bill approved by the Senate Tuesday.

The bill would create a statewide law allowing local governments to use the cameras and give drivers cause to think twice before coasting through a red light, lawmakers said.

"The main reason for this bill is to make roadways safe and to protect the lives of our men, women and children in the state of Florida," said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.

The widely backed bill is among a knot of bills aimed at reducing traffic crashes that have been slated for debate in the closing days of the legislative session.

Florida ranked third in traffic fatalities after California and Texas, in 2008 and 2007, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Many of the bills would result in new government fees, an enticing prospect for a state mired in budget reductions.

So far, the red light legislation (HB 325) is the only measure to pass both the Senate and the House, raising doubts that there is enough time left in the remaining three days of the session to advance the other bills.

The red light bill passed handily in both legislative chambers with the support of local governments who applauded the measure as an overdue legal protection against complaints that the monitoring devices encroach on individual rights.

It lets local governments install cameras at intersections and charges a $158 civil fine to motorists who run a red light. The measure makes it a civil infraction that doesn't factor into auto insurance rates.

A Miami-Dade judge in February deemed the city of Aventura's red light cameras illegal, casting doubt on similar efforts in 50 other Florida localities.

A state law would eliminate those concerns, said Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, who added a red light camera to a bustling intersection in his South Florida city last year.

"People were just running lights flagrantly," he said.

Some citizens have since questioned the reach of the cameras, Ortis said. But if the red light bill becomes state law, he plans to add at least three more cameras.

"I want to save lives," he said.

Drivers could also face changes stemming from a proposed law targeting road rage.

In a 30-6 vote, the Senate passed a bill (SB 482) Tuesday that would require drivers in the left lane of a multilane highway to move out of the way of faster-moving traffic. The House is poised to pass it this week.

"Road rage is one of the largest causes of traffic accidents, and unfortunately when they happen at 80 miles per hour, people die," said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, the bill's sponsor.

Other proposed driving reforms haven't fared as well.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, urged the Senate to pass a bill (SB 448) Tuesday to ban texting while driving and send a message to the House, where Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, chairwoman of the House Finance and Tax Council, refuses to advance it because it doesn't address all driving distractions.

"This bill is not dead in the Florida Senate," said Detert. "I would ask you to send the folks down the hall a message."

It passed, 34-4.

Still, Bogdanoff said this would not change her mind.

Distractions caused by mobile devices contribute to 6,000 deaths each year on America's highways, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. More than 135 billion text messages were sent or received in a one-month period in the United States, 80 percent more than in 2008, the department found.

Under the bill, first-time violators could be fined $30 plus court costs. A second offense within five years would be a moving violation, costing the texting driver $60 plus court costs.

"OMG," said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, using texting shorthand to express her praise for the measure. "BTW, LOL."

Red light cameras win legislative approval, with road rage, texting still in the mix 04/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  2. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis

    Religion

    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  3. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its

  4. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana

    Blogs

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.
  5. We Tried That: Working on a food truck for a day

    Cooking

    What we tried: It seems like everyone and their mother wants to open a food truck.

    Carlynn Crosby prepares food at the Empamamas food truck in the Cigar City Brewing parking lot in Tampa this month. For a variety of reasons, food trucking is not for the faint of heart.