Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater pushes ahead with red light cameras

CLEARWATER — One after another, people came before the City Council to forcefully denounce red light cameras. They said the devices cause rear-end crashes and are really just a money grab by the government. They complained about a "1984 Orwellian police state." They warned, We'll remember this at election time.

An elderly woman from Clearwater Beach blasted the cameras as "highway robbery," prompting a round of applause from the audience.

However, this did not stop the City Council from voting 3-2 Thursday night to bring red light cameras to some of Clearwater's most dangerous intersections.

Really, only eight people spoke against the cameras, and in Clearwater eight isn't all that many. The Clearwater City Council has been yelled at by far more people than that over any number of contentious issues.

The three council members who support the red light cameras — Mayor Frank Hibbard, Vice Mayor John Doran and council member Bill Jonson — passionately insist that it's not about revenue, but instead it's about driver safety. They view the cameras as a tool for fighting an epidemic of red light running in the area.

"I think there are literally hundreds of thousands of things on the Internet you can read about this," said Doran, who began researching the issue in 2008 after he himself ran a red light and accidentally hit another car, causing minor injuries for the other driver.

"I've read both sides," he said. "I'm convinced we're better off as a society, as a community, to use photo-enhanced traffic enforcement to educate people about the wisdom of slowing down when you see a yellow light instead of speeding up."

Clearwater is the fourth city in Pinellas County to approve the cameras, behind St. Petersburg, Kenneth City and South Pasadena. Oldsmar is expected to approve them Tuesday.

Clearwater's first cameras are to be installed sometime next year. At the mayor's suggestion, they'll start by posting cameras at just a couple of intersections, which are yet to be determined. After six months, the city will study the data from those locations before deciding whether to continue.

Ultimately, city officials have about 10 dangerous intersections in mind for the cameras, mostly along Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

A 2009 state law allows cities to install cameras at intersections and charges a $158 fine to the registered owner of any vehicle caught on camera running a red light.

Two Clearwater council members voted against the cameras — George Cretekos and Paul Gibson.

Cretekos and the cameras' chief proponent, Doran, debated the issue at length. Each cited examples and studies claiming that red light cameras are either good or bad for drivers' safety.

Gibson said, "I think that before you make a decision like this, the data should be conclusive."

Doran said the data would never be conclusive because different studies are conducted by organizations with different agendas, such as those funded by insurance companies or motorists' rights groups.

As for the mayor, Hibbard noted matter-of-factly that drivers who don't run red lights won't get tickets. He also said he trusted the opinions of Clearwater's police chief and its longtime traffic engineer, 40-year veteran Paul Bertels.

"He's kind of the brain for the entire county on traffic issues," Hibbard said of Bertels. "When he tells me he believes this will improve safety, that matters to me."

Cretekos and some members of the public argued that it would be more effective to extend yellow lights by a second or two.

But Bertels said the state likely wouldn't allow that because it would reduce traffic capacity, which can already be a problem at times in Clearwater.

The cameras take a photo of the red light runner's license plate. A traffic officer reviews the image, verifying the infraction. A notice is sent to the vehicle's registered owner. If the owner wasn't behind the wheel at the time of the infraction, that person has 30 days to file an affidavit declaring as much.

Violators are fined $158 for a nonmoving violation, which means no points are taken from their driver's license.

From each ticket 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.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

New deputy chief

Also Thursday night, new Clearwater Deputy Police Chief Sandra Wilson was sworn in. Wilson is a 23-year veteran of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where her first assignment was as an agent in the Tampa Bay region. She most recently has been a special agent supervisor for the FDLE in Orlando.

Clearwater pushes ahead with red light cameras 12/02/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 27, 2011 4:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Have your say Tampa Bay on the region's future transit options

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — It's time, yet again, for Tampa Bay residents to tell officials what kind of transit options they want for their region.

    The Cross-Bay Ferry docks at the Tampa Convention Center on its maiden voyage on Nov. 1, 2016. A regional premium transit study will determine whether a ferry, or other options such as express buses or light rail, would be a good addition to Tampa Bay. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  2. Today, a total eclipse of the sun will span the entire United States, crossing from the West Coast to the East Coast, for the first time in 99 years. (Dreamstime/TNS)
  3. What is poke? Here's how to make the Hawaiian dish at home


    In Hawaiian, "poke" simply means "to cut."

    Tuna Poke Bowl: For a classic poke bowl, try this recipe with ahi (yellowfin) and only a few other ingredients.
  4. MOSI, SPC, libraries offer safe solar eclipse viewing Monday


    If you couldn't score some of the hard-to-find eyewear that will let you watch Monday's solar eclipse, have no fear, there are safe viewing choices across the Tampa Bay area.

    Twin Falls High School science teachers Ashley Moretti, left, and Candace Wright, right, use their eclipse shades to look at the sun as they pose for a portrait at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho. The district bought 11,000 pairs of solar glasses, enough for every student and staff member to view the solar eclipse Aug. 21

(Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP)
  5. SOCom seeks civilian drone pilots to develop new technology through ThunderDrone


    TAMPA — For the last three years, Nicole Abbett has been using drones as part of her photography business, with clients like the city of Tampa and construction companies.

    Josh Newby, 31, Palm Harbor, of Tampa Drones fly's a drone in England Brothers park, Pinellas Park, 8/25/16. As drone popularity increases as a hobby and business, local governments are navigating a legal grey area- where, when, and how should drone flights be allowed?