Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Oldsmar intersection prompts questions about red-light cameras

Traffic heads west recently on Tampa Road where SR 580 intersects at an angle to the left and red-light cameras are used.


Traffic heads west recently on Tampa Road where SR 580 intersects at an angle to the left and red-light cameras are used.

OLDSMAR — A second is very little time in the press of life but a meaningful measurement in the delicately tuned universe of traffic enforcement.

In Oldsmar, a difference of about a second is raising questions over the use of red-light cameras that could have significant ramifications in this city, and beyond.

In August, the city began operating a camera to catch red-light runners at the heavily traveled intersection of State Road 580 and Tampa Road, joining cities throughout Florida that have installed the devices.

In November, after Oldsmar's cameras had resulted in close to half a million dollars in tickets, city officials realized they had a problem. It appeared the traffic light wasn't working properly.

The city contacted the Florida Department of Transportation. A DOT review showed that the yellow light at the intersection was lasting only three seconds, when it should have been lasting 4.5 seconds, Oldsmar officials said.

The timing of the light was corrected on Nov. 7, but the city's handling of the affair has angered some who say thousands of drivers might have received the dreaded $158 ticket for red-light running in error.

"The amount of money that the city received out of this is mind-boggling," said Oldsmar resident Todd Male, 55, who received and paid a ticket when a camera caught him going through a red light at the intersection. "It's a large enough amount that the onus should be back on the city to refund us."

City spokeswoman Ann Stephan said Oldsmar has no plans to refund any ticket revenue. She said the yellow-light time, while shorter than that recommended by the state, was not so short as to be illegal.

Stephan said the city asked DOT to review the light after hearing complaints that the yellow signal at the intersection "felt a little too quick."

There are four intersections with red-light cameras in Oldsmar, Stephan said. Only the one at SR 580 and Tampa Road was changed. But overall ticket revenue from the cameras fell off dramatically after the yellow-light time at the intersection was lengthened, going from $158,158 from tickets issued in October and early November to $81,084 from tickets in November and early December, according to city figures.

In the last four months of 2012, all of the city's red-light cameras brought in $541,801 in revenue — and that's not counting overdue ticket payments, which increase from $158 to $264. Of that, the city kept $171,393, with $284,862 going to the state and $85,546 going to American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based contractor that runs the cameras.

Controversy over the timing of Oldsmar's light is so far confined to that city. That could change as more becomes known about how the light continued to operate incorrectly for months.

The DOT is responsible for traffic lights on state roads throughout Florida, and American Traffic Solutions has erected intersection cameras in cities throughout the state, including St. Petersburg and Tampa.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster announced Thursday that he would delay setting up new red-light cameras while the city evaluates complaints that yellow lights at targeted intersections in that city are not lasting long enough.

John O'Brien, a DOT spokesman, referred questions about the Oldsmar intersection to the department's local office. Officials there could not be reached for comment Friday.

The case of Oldsmar resident Pat Knapp offers a glimpse of what might ensue if others choose to challenge their tickets based on the wrongly timed light at SR 580 and Tampa Road.

Knapp was ticketed at the intersection in August. Earlier this year, he took his case to court, arguing that since the yellow light was too short, his ticket should be thrown out. A Pinellas judge agreed, he said, dismissing his case.

Knapp said the authorities responsible for the light owe others who got tickets the same consideration.

"They need to make amends for what they did," he said. "They did everybody wrong, and they should have known about it."

Peter Jamison can be reached at or (727) 445-4157. To write a letter to the editor, go to

Oldsmar intersection prompts questions about red-light cameras 02/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 1:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan


    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

  2. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville


    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in modern Florida history, said Monday that ‘both sides” bore blame for Charlottesville.

  3. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  4. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  5. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse


    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]