ST. PETE BEACH — Running a red light at three major intersections here could soon become very costly.
The City Commission is strongly considering installing cameras on 75th Avenue at Blind Pass Road, 75th Avenue at Gulf Boulevard and Gulf Boulevard at Gulf Winds Drive.
The cameras would capture the license plate numbers of cars ignoring red lights and trigger a process that for many would end in an automatic $158 ticket.
In addition to encouraging safer driving, the cameras could generate a half-million dollars or more in additional annual revenue.
"I am in total support of this program," Mayor Mike Finnerty said last week during a commission discussion.
The rest of the commissioners were equally in support, pushing the administration to move quickly in bringing a contract back to the commission.
That will likely happen in March, according to City Manager Mike Bonfield.
"A red light camera is a force multiplier," police Chief David Romine told the commission last week. "It will allow our officers to spend more time patrolling neighborhoods and it reduces officer danger."
Romine said the cameras would provide "permanent visual evidence" of a red light violation.
The videos would also provide "clear evidence of fault" when accidents occur within the intersections.
"Red light camera programs reduce fatal crashes and the rate of all crashes," Romine said, citing a recent Florida study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The study found that red light cameras saved 159 lives between 2004 and 2008 in 14 of the biggest cities in the United States. About 500 cities presently use the camera systems.
Also, in cities that have red light cameras at some intersections, the institute found that accidents overall were reduced.
Florida law allows municipalities to install red light cameras.
Currently, South Pasadena, Gulfport and Kenneth City have installed red light cameras and St. Petersburg is considering them, according to Romine.
Violators caught on the cameras are assessed a civil fine and the violations are not reported to insurance companies or to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The three St. Pete Beach intersections under consideration for the red light cameras were identified in a recent traffic engineering study conducted by American Traffic Solutions.
"Cameras are the most proven, effective deterrent to red light running," ATS spokesman Brad Swanson told the commission.
He said the cameras can reduce violations by up to 70 percent and reduce accidents by 40 percent.
He estimated if cameras were installed on 75th Avenue at Blind Pass and at Gulf Boulevard, the system might capture 60 or more violations every day, based on current driving patterns.
The presence of cameras would likely reduce that number over time, Swanson said, but for every ticket issued and paid, the city's share would be $75 after deducting court and state fees.
The cameras would cost $15,000 a month to lease and would require only two violations per intersection, per day to break even, Swanson said, stressing the city would not be billed for any costs not paid for by the fines.
If the programs proves successful, additional cameras might be installed elsewhere in the city, said Romine.