Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Smile for the camera as you run that light

We seem to have our own rules when it comes to driving around here, our own culture of the road.

Naturally, we have texting-at-the-wheel drivers, because who needs to see oncoming traffic all the time, and motorists oblivious because they're busy on cell phones. (And good luck getting lawmakers to crack down on that.)

Around here we need to get there now, so when the green left-turn arrow turns red, to us this means not exactly "stop," but more like "3 or 4 more cars can go, too," even if it is technically a "red light."

Speaking of which, I know an intersection (bet you do, too) where you would be mistaken to assume when your light turns green, this means you can go — not if you want to make it home for supper and not until you look both ways for red-light runners. One, two, three cars can blow through in front of you before you're safe to proceed, even if their light is, well, red. Here, it's never a surprise to happen upon broken glass, dented fenders and worse.

So when it comes to red light cameras, I have, excuse the expression, seen the light.

Tuesday the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office began issuing $125 tickets at six busy intersections equipped with cameras to catch red light scofflaws. For two months prior, to get us used to the new (wait, make that existing) rules, they sent out warnings — nearly 3,000 of them.

Wondering if This Means You? You won't know for 30 days. The picture evidence, including one of the offender's auto tag, goes to the camera vendor and must be matched with a car registration. Last to eyeball the evidence and decide ticket or no-ticket (with passes for funeral processions, getting out of the way of fire trucks, etc.) is a sheriff's deputy.

Red light cameras have sprouted from Brooksville to Pembroke Pines to New York, and critics are legion. Safety, schmafety, they say, government is out to make money. Private camera vendors will pile on tickets for profit. Small violations will cost big bucks. Rear-end crashes increase when people see cameras and hit the brakes. Okay, so let's talk about that.

Hillsborough's program has some smart tweaks, as in:

• Critics argue (rightly) that giving camera vendors a percentage of ticket fees can be financial motive for pushing more tickets. Hillsborough instead pays the vendor a flat monthly $4,750 fee per camera, no matter how many tickets result.

• Hillsborough won't issue camera-generated tickets for "technical" violations like having your tires just over the line or turning right on red as long as you're not going fast — violations not likely to cause injury or death.

• Yes, even those who believe this to be effective enforcement admit more rear-end crashes may happen, at least until we get used to cameras. But those who have worked wrecks will tell you a rear-end collision is likely to be less devastating than the kind of broadside, T-bone wrecks red-light runners can cause.

To those who object to the price tag: Stop for the light, and it won't cost a cent.

Finally, to that government-making-money argument, I say: good. Throw in community service hours cleaning up the aftermath of stupid, thoughtless wrecks to boot. Good, if changing our driving culture also nets cash.

Good, if a painful, pricey ticket helps us see the light.

Smile for the camera as you run that light 12/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 8:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.