Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Red-light cameras are a plus for safety — if you get rid of the deceit

“There’s a difference between an aggressive driver with a history of violations who is taking no responsibility and a mom in a minivan who is horrified that she just mistimed a yellow light,” says Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri, a critic of red-light cameras.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2011)

“There’s a difference between an aggressive driver with a history of violations who is taking no responsibility and a mom in a minivan who is horrified that she just mistimed a yellow light,” says Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri, a critic of red-light cameras.

Let's be honest: It's hard to argue against the concept of red-light cameras.

It's a law-and-order issue. A right-and-wrong issue. Mostly it is a public safety issue, and there is virtually nothing you can say that trumps that argument.

You can manipulate and parse the accident data any way you choose, but the fundamental truth is drivers should be more cognizant of blowing through red lights.

So, no, I will not argue against the concept of red-light cameras.

Only the deceit involved.

Red-light cameras are big business. They provide revenue for state and local governments, as well as the private companies that develop and operate the cameras.

And there's nothing wrong with a contractor making a profit, nor a government entity issuing fines.

The problem is they are hiding behind the banner of public safety while stacking the deck to maximize profits.

"I don't support them at all,'' Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "They were done for all the wrong reasons. I feel pretty confident saying they were done with revenues in mind.''

What are some of the non-public safety issues involved?

• Yellow lights that suspiciously turn red more quickly than the recommended guideline for an intersection. When a poorly timed yellow light was recently fixed in Oldsmar, the number of red-light infractions dropped in half the following month.

• When the Legislature tried to make it easier to contest violations, they made it easier for municipalities to increase revenues. Newly created hearing boards can now charge up to $250 in fees for failed appeals and are theoretically motivated to pay for their own existence by ruling against drivers.

• Contracts that are written in a way that smaller municipalities essentially face a quota to keep the cash flowing to camera vendors. So a rolling right-hand turn that a traffic cop would typically ignore is now routinely turned into a $158 violation.

For Gualtieri, the biggest problem is tickets are being issued in a vacuum. There is no nuance, no extenuating circumstances, no warnings. Just a video and a violation.

"Law enforcement officers use their own judgment and discretion every day, and that has been removed from the equation,'' he said. "There's a difference between an aggressive driver with a history of violations who is taking no responsibility and a mom in a minivan who is horrified that she just mistimed a yellow light.

"My biggest problem is the right-hand turns where there is no question of safety involved. That's just a 'gotcha' mentality, and I detest it, especially in law enforcement.''

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is also convinced revenues are at the heart of red-light cameras and recently filed a bill that would effectively repeal the law.

How likely is that?

Considering there is money to be made and lobbyists to be unleashed, the idea legislators would actually kill red-light cameras seems iffy at best.

And, when you get right down to it, there is still a legitimate argument to be made in the name of public safety.

So maybe what we need is a compromise. A more common-sense approach on right-hand turns. A more citizen-friendly appeals process. A little more scrutiny on vendor contracts. Less emphasis on money and more on safety.

Nothing wrong with knowing when to tap the brakes.

Red-light cameras are a plus for safety — if you get rid of the deceit 09/16/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 8:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. PolitiFact takes on big health care question: Does GOP bill cut Medicaid?

    National

    Politics and math don't always get along, and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway raised a common complaint about how people talk about the future of Medicaid spending under the Senate Republican health care bill.

    Alice Jacobs, 90, at Dogwood Village, a nonprofit county-owned nursing home in Orange, Va., on June 23. Medicaid, targeted by Republicans' health care bill, pays for most of the 1.4 million elderly people in nursing homes, some of whom do not know they are on it. (Khue Bui/The New York Times)
  2. Higher Social Security payouts help Florida post a big jump in personal income

    Personal Finance

    Personal income grew 1.3 percent in Florida in the first quarter of this year, a four-way tie among all states for second-fastest growth behind Idaho.

  3. Gov. Scott in Washington as health care debate intensifies

    Blogs

    Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday began a daylong series of meetings in Washington on health care, saying he wants to ensure Florida gets its share of Medicaid funding while praising parts of the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at Creative Sign Designs in Tampa on June 13.
  4. Rays series preview: Who are the Pirates?

    Blogs

    After an off day Monday, the Rays head on the road to PNC Park for a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Here's the information you need to know about Pittsburgh before the action kicks off.

    Record: 35-41, fourth in NL Central

    Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, left, has rebounded from a rough start, while fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, has fallen off recently.
  5. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]