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Red-light cameras netting more violators in Brandon

Intersection 2010 2011 2012 (Jan. – June)
Brandon Town Center Drive and Brandon Boulevard (Westfield Brandon) 6,748 * 8,240 4,871
Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue 2,562 2,546 1,369
Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue 7,875 8,645 3,804
Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway 7,233 2,759 1,809
Waters Avenue and Anderson Road 5,418 5,132 2,076
Sligh Avenue and Habana Avenue 671 797 400
Total 30,507 28,119 14,329
Source: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

* Note: The red-light camera at Brandon Town Center was installed in April 2010.



BRANDON — Citations for running red lights at the entrance to the Westfield Brandon mall are up 44 percent in the first six months of this year, according to a report from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Red-light violations at the intersection of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals — which, like the mall entrance, has a traffic camera — increased by 24 percent in the same time period.

Brandon area drivers are not alone though. Overall, red-light citations at the six county intersections equipped with cameras are up by almost 2,000 when compared with the first six months of 2011.

Until this year, red-light citations had been falling. Records show the county issued 2,384 fewer citations in 2011 compared with 2010, the first year the cameras went operational.

Cpl. Troy Morgan, who oversees the sheriff's office's red-light camera program, thinks the increase may be due to more traffic.

"Last year, when citations dropped, we thought the cameras had modified driver behavior but it could be we just had less people driving last year because of the economy," Morgan said. "We are going to further evaluate the numbers.

"It could be an increase in citations (unrelated to traffic volume), but my assumption would be we are seeing an increase in the traffic volume."

The number of citations issued at the entrance to the mall at Brandon Town Center Drive and Brandon Boulevard jumped from 3,375 in the first six months of 2011 to 4,871 in the first months of 2012. That's an average of 26 vehicles running red lights at the intersection every day.

A contributing factor to the high number of citations at the mall entrance is the number of cars cutting across from Causeway Boulevard to Brandon Boulevard, said Cpl. Buddy Rudolph, the sheriff's office traffic coordinator for Brandon and Seffner.

"You have a lot of people cutting over from Causeway Boulevard and using Brandon Town Center Drive to get over to State Road 60 and that adds to the sheer volume of traffic going through the intersection, which is easily Brandon's busiest."

Cameras caught 1,369 drivers running red lights at Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road in the first six months of this year compared with 1,104 from January to June last year, an average of seven vehicles a day running red lights.

The widening of Boyette Road may be driving more traffic into the Bloomingdale/Bell Shoals intersection, Morgan said. The $66 million Boyette Road widening project, due for completion in 2014, will eventually create a divided four-lane road. For now, construction has made the road one to avoid.

"That could be pushing higher volumes of traffic onto Bloomingdale so you get more people using that intersection who are not familiar with it and running the light."

Morgan has no doubt the cameras make drivers more vigilant and help to save lives. He points to reports that show crashes decreasing at the six intersections equipped with cameras; 395 crashes in 2008, 275 crashes in 2009, 270 crashes in 2010 and 240 in 2011.

"The cameras do something law enforcement cannot do and that is provide 24-hour, 365-day-a-year coverage," said Morgan, who regularly posts videos of drivers running red lights at the sheriff's office website.

Motorists caught running a red light pay a $158 fine. Of that, $75 goes to the county with the remainder going to the state. Every violation is reviewed by a sheriff's office deputy who weeds out legitimate turns on red before a ticket is mailed out. No points are assessed on a driver's license and motorists can appeal the tickets in traffic court.

"The program doesn't cost taxpayers," Morgan said. "It is paid for by those who run the red lights; these are the people who fund the program."

American Traffic Solutions, or ATS, the company that installed and maintains the cameras, is paid $47,500 per month to maintain 10 cameras at the six county intersections. The company also operates seven cameras in Temple Terrace and 27 in Tampa. ATS operates 630 cameras across Florida in 61 municipalities.

While more towns and counties are giving the program a green light — Oldsmar and Clearwater turned on their own traffic cameras this week — critics, and there are no shortage of them in Florida, are seeing red.

Last month, Florida's 4th District Court of Appeal ruled against a Broward County motorist who claimed his citation violated the U.S. and Florida constitutions. Three other legal challenges to red-light cameras are still pending.

A bill to repeal the 2009 state law that allowed local governments to install the cameras passed the House in 2011 but died in the Senate.

Kevin Brady can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Red-light cameras netting more violators in Brandon 08/09/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 9, 2012 4:30am]
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