Tampa sees drop in crashes | Jan. 5
For safety, adjust timing of yellow
The finding that red-light cameras reduced crashes in Tampa was provided by the same people who recommended the cameras and profit from the proceeds. Crashes typically decrease after camera installation because traffic volume is reduced, as some drivers avoid camera sites. This is a reason why scientific evaluations do not use simple before-and-after comparisons.
Unfortunately for the public, red-light cameras are profitable due to a weakness in the formula for setting yellow light timings. The formula uses the average "driver reaction time to braking," which is one second. Since an average is a general midpoint, about half the drivers will be above this average. This creates a "dilemma zone" when approaching an intersection where these drivers cannot stop in time and will enter the intersection on a red light only because their reaction time is above average, despite being within a normal range. Typical reaction times to braking include up to two seconds, and the longer times are more common among the elderly, disabled or infirm or in unexpected situations.
In Georgia, the law mandates the extra second is added to yellow light timings at camera sites, which eliminates 70 to 80 percent of tickets. For fairness, camera programs in Florida should add the extra second to the yellow light timing formula. This allows drivers in the "dilemma zone" to enter the intersection on a yellow light.
Tampa drivers will ultimately know whether a safety benefit was achieved based on auto insurance rates. If rates do not decline, consistent with the large safety improvement that public officials attribute to cameras (and beyond the forecast PIP reductions), then cameras do not provide an economic benefit to the public (only to City Hall).
Barbara Langland Orban, Tampa
Despite wounds, he leaves gun in holster Jan. 5
More than three cheers for the young man who kept his gun in the holster while being shot with a pellet gun. His display of restraint and civility, knowing he could have killed the aggressor and perhaps bystanders, shows there are still people in our society who do not feel it necessary to defuse a situation with a firearm.
With approximately 83 Americans dying every day from gun violence in our country, he chose the path of resistance, thus not adding to woeful gun death statistics.
Joan Lund, Tampa
World in a snap | Jan. 4
Cruelty toward animals
In viewing the photo from Hong Kong of a roof paved with shark fins, remember that these awesome creatures are caught, have their fins cut off, and then are thrown back into the sea alive. This practice is just another example of the ignorance and animal abuse by the human race. Such abuse needs to stop once and for all, especially in connection to human enjoyment, greed and superstitious beliefs.
I cringe at what the human race has evolved into. Yes, we are the most intelligent life form on Earth; and also undoubtedly the most dangerous.
Joseph Rowe, Tarpon Springs
Medicaid expansion hinges on costs Jan. 6, commentary
Expand the program
Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to improve health care quality and access in Florida and control costs. He claims that the statewide Medicaid Managed Care proposal is an attempt to address these issues. Instead, it is a thinly veiled plan to raise the revenues of private insurance companies at the expense of vulnerable Floridians who need access to high-quality and stable health care services. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should not allow the Medicaid Managed Care waiver application to affect any negotiation with Scott about the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion in Florida.
The decision to expand Medicaid in Florida will influence health services for all Floridians, not only the estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million adults and children who stand to gain access to care. The Affordable Care Act reduces the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital program that Scott references by 75 percent beginning next year. This will leave hospitals that currently provide emergency services for uninsured people without access to the safety net reimbursement system that allows them to keep their doors open. If the governor and Legislature allow the expansion to take place, these hospitals will be compensated for emergency care through predictable Medicaid reimbursements. But even more importantly, the people who now rely only on costly and inefficient emergency services for primary care will gain access to primary and preventive services through the Medicaid expansion.
Scott's claim that Medicaid expansion will cost Florida $63 billion over 10 years is a fantasy number at 15 times the estimates of national experts.
I urge Scott and our Legislature to take the rational step and expand the Florida Medicaid program in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
Laura Brennaman, Fort Myers
Price of extremism
Think about it: 300 million guns in circulation, just about enough for every man, woman and child in America.
Sure, there is the chance that one day we might be faced with a home invasion or be caught in the middle of a crime in progress. But it's those concealed weapons carried legally by ordinary citizens that I fear most.
I have more of a chance of one of those weapons being stuck in my face. It could be during a road rage incident, nightclub brawl, mall argument, or from being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a domestic dispute. It could be during an argument with someone — perhaps a neighbor — over a loud radio, or a Columbine, Aurora, Newtown or Trayvon Martin incident, or, as happened recently, a dispute over skateboarding in a park.
It is sheer madness and an issue we are going to have to deal with as a society. Like so many other things in this world that we take to extremes, we eventually will pay a dear price for the way we love our guns, if we haven't already.
Robert J. Emery, Apollo Beach
Mexican object lesson
Gun control laws in Mexico are very strict and arms possession is severely restricted by a wide network of laws. How is that working out?
B.J. Mitchell, St. Petersburg