Monday, August 20, 2018
News Roundup

As red light cameras sprout across Tampa Bay, residents offer strong support

They might be unpopular in other parts of the nation, but red light cameras enjoy strong support from most residents of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

A Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll found 62 percent of residents favor the cameras. A third oppose them, while 4 percent aren't sure.

"I see people drive through red lights all the time," said Tatyana Hankinson, a South Tampa artist. "A friend of mine was involved in a crash where someone ran a red light and hit her. Cameras can help prevent that from happening again. They're a deterrent."

Under programs launched two months ago in St. Petersburg and Tampa, a motorist recorded driving through a red light gets a $158 ticket. Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, Port Richey, Kenneth City, Gulfport and South Pasadena also have them. Clearwater and Oldsmar are set to debut cameras this year.

Because many of the programs have just started, it's too early to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing red light violations. But the poll shows residents are giving the programs time to prove themselves.

The poll was conducted by telephone of 508 Pinellas and Hillsborough county adults Dec. 3-11. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

About half of residents — 48 percent — agree with public officials who say the programs are intended to improve public safety — not raise more money.

But more than a third — 37 percent — said the primary reason is to raise money for cash-strapped government budgets hit hard by the recession.

"It's a great way for the city to make more money," said John DeBella, 65, a former New York City cabdriver who lives in Clearwater. "It's sneaky. It's like when police catch you speeding. They hide behind bushes to catch you. If they were visible, you'd slow down. But they'll make money. It won't stop red light running, though. People who run red lights are crazy. They'll keep doing it."

Two of the biggest advocates for the cameras, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, said second-guessing at this stage is to be expected.

"You have to live with that initial skepticism," Buckhorn said. "It's a long process to change behavior and it's not without challenges. But we'll see a decline in deaths and, I hope, a decline in revenue because fewer people will run red lights."

Tampa estimated the cameras would produce $2 million in fines in 2012. St. Petersburg projected nearly $900,000.

So far, both cities have thrown out a large number of tickets, especially for those turning right on red without slowing down.

By mid November, almost 60 percent of drivers ticketed in St. Petersburg weren't given a ticket. In Tampa, about 45 percent of drivers caught on camera avoided a ticket.

Because of that discretion, Foster said he expects support for the cameras to grow.

"All of the doom-and-gloom predictions haven't come true," he said. "We've thrown out a considerable amount. The people who are getting tickets, it's so blatant. It's not even an 'oops.' People are skeptical, but I think the evidence will vindicate the city's position."

Still, the cameras draw opposition.

Several studies have shown they don't improve safety and help increase rear-end collisions. In Florida, tickets issued from camera enforcement continue to get challenged as unconstitutional. While this has led many tickets to be thrown out in South Florida and elsewhere, judges in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have upheld the tickets.

Last week, state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed a bill to repeal the 2010 state law that allowed the tickets, hoping for greater success than a similar bill that failed last year.

More ominously for the industry, several major cities last year ditched cameras. Albuquerque, N.M., stopped them because of public dissatisfaction with how much money the vendor was keeping from the fines. Los Angeles took them out because the program cost the city more than $1 million a year. Houston removed them after a near revolt from civic groups who viewed the program as having little to do with public safety and more to do with making money. St. Pete Beach dropped plans to install red light cameras.

Travis Norton, 30, a Clearwater political consultant, moved recently from Orange County, Calif. He said that region struggled with the cameras, which he said in his experience ended up causing more rear-end crashes.

"I've seen people brake really hard on the yellows, and the drivers behind them don't anticipate it and run into them," Norton said. "I saw that happen twice and I heard about it all the time. It became a big fiasco."

But the cameras get their strongest support from a demographic group that doesn't include Norton.

If you're a woman older than 55 and living in Hillsborough County, chances are you love red light cameras.

Sixty-six percent of women in Hillsborough favored the cameras compared to 58 percent of men. Those 55 and older favored red light cameras by 69 percent, compared with 58 percent of those 18 to 54. In Hillsborough, 67 percent of residents favored the cameras, compared with 57 percent of Pinellas residents.

Marta Cardone fits in that demographic. The 59-year-old Town 'N Country resident says the red light cameras should help take the crazy edge off driving habits that are "out of control."

"There are way too many people going through red lights, and that's how accidents happen," said Cardone, a medical transcriptionist and certified nursing assistant. "I work with a lot of senior citizens, and many of them are scared to drive."

Buckhorn said the base of support is no surprise to him.

"When you're older, you have a greater respect for the law," he said. "And women are often carrying children in their cars, so they're much more aware of the risks. As a dad, I'm much more fearful of the potential."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or [email protected]

Comments
Ernest Hooper: Sometimes you gotta take inventory

Ernest Hooper: Sometimes you gotta take inventory

Random thoughts, because sometimes you gotta take inventory.I like Kelly Clarkson, but she’s no Aretha.Tax cuts? Overrated.Vote. Stop making excuses.To earn a man’s support, you must acknowledge his pain.The older I get, the more I love baseball.Sly ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: Sergio Romo extremely thankful for career save No. 100

Rays journal: Sergio Romo extremely thankful for career save No. 100

BOSTON — Sergio Romo tries — though not always successfully — to keep his emotions in check on the mound. You kind of have to in logging 100 career saves, the milestone he reached in Sunday's 2-0 win over the Red Sox.But walking int...
Updated: 5 hours ago
DeCalon Brooks ready to make a name for himself at Florida State

DeCalon Brooks ready to make a name for himself at Florida State

TALLAHASSEE — DeCalon Brooks doesn't only want to be known as Derrick Brooks' son.Yes, he plays the same position (linebacker) at the same school (Florida State) where his father won a national title in 1993 before becoming a Bucs legend a...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Nothing is going to stand in way of Peyton Barber and his goal to be Bucs’ starting running back

Nothing is going to stand in way of Peyton Barber and his goal to be Bucs’ starting running back

TAMPA – Ask Peyton Barber his approach to training camp or preseason games, and his answer is meant to bull over the questioner as if it's all that's standing between him and the goal line."I think the end-all goal for me is to be the star...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Jalen Beeks shines for Rays in winning return to Boston

Jalen Beeks shines for Rays in winning return to Boston

BOSTON — Jalen Beeks called it a complicated question.Then he gave a convoluted answer.Just what, he was asked after leading the Rays to a 2-0 win Sunday over the Red Sox, did it mean to come back to Fenway Park for the first time and beat...
Updated: 9 hours ago
North Carolina fugitives, charged with shooting at cops, found and arrested in Treasure Island

North Carolina fugitives, charged with shooting at cops, found and arrested in Treasure Island

TREASURE ISLAND — Two men on the run from law enforcement in North Carolina were found hiding in Treasure Island — armed with an AR-15, a machete and a pipe bomb, deputies said — leading to a standoff with a SWAT team that ended early Sunday morning....
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa holds a birthday vigil for Lillia Raubenolt, the young girl killed on Bayshore

Tampa holds a birthday vigil for Lillia Raubenolt, the young girl killed on Bayshore

Somewhere Over the Rainbow was the first song Lillia Raubenolt’s parents sang to her as a newborn, according to her uncle, John Reisinger."They were just so happy when she was born," he said.But on May 23, while the family was visiting Tampa from Ohi...
Updated: 10 hours ago
She would be 2 today

She would be 2 today

CreditLillia Raubenolt would have had her second birthday today. On May 23, while the family was visiting Tampa from Ohio, Lillia and her mother, Jessica Raubenolt, were struck and killed by a car as they legally crossed the road at the corner of Bay...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Man in Spring Hill airlifted to hospital with severe electrical burns

Man in Spring Hill airlifted to hospital with severe electrical burns

A man has been airlifted to a local hospital after suffering severe electrical burns while trimming trees in Spring Hill.In a release, Pasco County Fire Rescue said the man was working on a lift and was airborne in the 18000 Block of Skinner Dr. in S...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays finish trip with 2-0 shutout of Red Sox

Rays finish trip with 2-0 shutout of Red Sox

BOSTON – The Rays always seem to find a way to make things interesting.Sunday, they did so by shutting down and shutting out the majors-best Red Sox in a 2-0 matinee win to cap a winning three-city road trip.Five Rays pitchers combined to blank...
Updated: 11 hours ago