CLEARWATER — A divided City Council will vote Thursday night on whether to bring red light cameras to some of the city's busiest and most dangerous intersections.
A slim majority of council members is leaning in favor. The board voted 3-2 a couple of weeks ago to have staffers draw up a city ordinance that will allow the cameras. They'll vote on that ordinance Thursday.
City officials have been getting phone calls and e-mails from Clearwater residents who have strong opinions on the subject, either pro or con. Some have questioned whether it's all really about revenue for the city.
A discussion about the cameras at a work session Monday showed that the City Council members are still split on the issue. They're divided because different studies have reached different conclusions about the effectiveness of red light cameras.
Council member George Cretekos, who opposes the cameras, referred to "the USF study that some people agree with and some people don't accept." That study found that red light cameras increase the number of rear-end collisions.
"The jury is still out," said Paul Gibson. "It's not clear at all whether you're better off with a system like this."
But John Doran, who wants red light cameras, said there's overwhelming evidence that the devices cut down on red light running and fatal accidents.
"Almost every jurisdiction that puts them in shows a decreasing amount of fines," he said. "People do start to pay attention and they do stop running red lights. We know that because the fines go down."
A 2009 state law allows cities to install cameras at intersections and charges a $158 fine to the registered owner of the vehicle caught on camera running a red light.
For tickets on city and county roads, the state Department of Revenue gets $70, the state Department of Health gets $10, the brain and spinal cord injury trust fund gets $3 and the locality gets $75. For tickets on state roads, the state gets $100, the locality $45 and the trust funds $10 and $3, respectively.
Hillsborough County, which has cameras at six intersections, has received more than $1.8 million in revenue from them this year.
If approved in Clearwater, the cameras would likely be installed early next year. Officials have about 10 dangerous intersections in mind for the cameras, many of them along Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.
In that case, Mayor Frank Hibbard wants signs posted at those intersections notifying drivers about the cameras.
"I want citizens to have fair warning," he said. "Hopefully, that will in itself change behavior."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4160.