Hernando red-light cameras slowed

BROOKSVILLE — No need to cue those cameras right now. Brooksville stills wants some time to think over a plan to snare red-light runners.

City Council members voted Monday night to allow themselves more time to evaluate whether to install cameras at some of the city's busiest intersections. The council will consider the plan at its April 21 meeting instead of on April 7.

"I just want enough time to digest all the information we need to before we go forward," Mayor David Pugh said before casting the deciding vote in a 3-2 split to approve the measure.

Siding with council members Lara Bradburn and Richard Lewis to move the discussion forward, Pugh said he wanted more information about the need for the cameras, specifically if there were a proven danger at local intersections because of red-light runners, and if any ordinance would conflict with potential state legislation.

City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha told Pugh and council members Joe Bernardini and Frankie Burnett, who opposed the camera idea, that city staff would soon provide them with the information.

With police Chief George Turner leading the charge, Brooksville has become the latest municipality in the Tampa Bay area to push for red-light cameras. Port Richey has already installed a camera. Hillsborough County commissioners approved a similar plan March 7. And Clearwater and Temple Terrace are also considering proposals from American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The city would pay nothing to have the cameras installed, according to the proposal. Instead, ATS would install and care for the cameras and make its money by taking $40 from every $125 ticket issued.

Motorists who run red lights would be photographed by the cameras twice: as the vehicle approaches the light and then crossing the intersection. The cameras also would shoot a video, which would be available for the violator to watch online. A police officer will view the video and ultimately determine if the driver broke the law. If so, the driver would be sent a ticket.

Greg Parks, regional vice president of ATS, showed the council a brief video, recorded with ATS traffic cameras, of accidents caused by red-light runners. "We've had a great track record in reducing red-light running across the country," Parks said.

But Bernardini, in particular, was unconvinced. "I'm just not in favor of it at this time," he said. "Are we using it for revenue enhancement or traffic safety? Are we really having that many accidents?"

Brooksville considered the program on the same day two organizations, the National Motorists Association and the Florida Civil Rights Association, called for a statewide ban of red-light cameras. The groups seek to put an end to the cameras following a recent study from the University of South Florida that concluded the cameras increase crashes and injuries.

"My opinion on this is Brooksville should run these people out of town," said Henry Stowe, a Florida member of the National Motorists Association. "Cameras don't prevent serious injuries."

On Tuesday, ATS spokesman Josh Weiss rebutted Stowe's claims and disputed the results of the USF study. Weiss noted the study's author, Barbara Langland-Orban, had once filed a federal suit against Tampa because of a ticket she received from the police. Langland-Orban's lawsuit was eventually dismissed and her appeal denied last month.

"The report's findings are also the exact opposite of what our clients nationally have experienced," Weiss said in an e-mail. "We place no credibility in this obviously biased study. We have more faith in the chiefs of police and traffic professionals than a disgruntled academician who clearly has some ax to grind."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or 754-6120.

Hernando red-light cameras slowed 03/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 9:56am]

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