Red light camera protestors: "Ban the cam!"

6:35 PM, Apr 12, 2011   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - "Ban the cam!"... that's what protestors around the state are chanting as they try to garner up support for legislation that would ban red light cameras in Florida.

As of now, both the House and Senate versions sit in committee.

On Tuesday, people from several different Libertarian and Tea Party groups scheduled a simultaneous one and a half hour protest in nine cities around the state to make their position known that the cameras have got to go. 

Photos: Red light cam protest

There were 15 total protests by the 5:30 p.m. start time.

In Tampa Bay, they were found at Dale Mabry and Waters in Tampa, US 19 and Ridge Road in New Port Richey and Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Blvd in Spring Hill.

"We feel it's a violation of Constitutional rights, it violates the Bill of Rights," said Adrian Wyllie with the 1787 Radio Network.  "For example, the right to face your accuser.  When you're accuser is an inanimate object, it's actually hard to cross examine."

But, law enforcement, like Corporal Troy Morgan with the Hillsborough County sheriff's Office wonders what's there to cross examine when video shows a driver blatantly driving
through a red light, in some cases, nearly hitting another vehicle.

He urges people to log onto to the HCSO website and watch the videos for themselves.

"See whether or not you believe those people should be issued a citation for running red lights when there's no law enforcement officer," said Cpl. Morgan.

Cpl. Morgan stands by his belief that the cameras save lives by helping to change the behavior of drivers.

While opponents claim the red light cameras cause more accidents than they prevent, this is only partially least in Hillsborough County.

HCSO provided numbers from the six different intersections in Hillsborough County with cameras and the numbers show, overall, accidents with injury are down from 40 in 2009 to 31 in 2010.  In 2008, before it was made official that the cameras were coming, there were 62 accidents with injury.

However, accidents without injury increased from 235 in 2009 to 239 in 2010.  Accidents in general only dropped by five, from 275 in 2009 to 270 in 2010.

"We've seen positive results.  We see no reason to not keep the cameras," said Cpl. Morgan.

Wyllie and his fellow red light camera opponents, however, say they see it different.

"Red light cameras are not a benefit to safety, in fact, we cite a lot of studies that show red light cameras actually increase accidents in intersections where they're installed," said Wyllie.

He also expressed concern about the money.

"This is basically a revenue generator tool for the municipalities, counties and state," he said.

In Hillsborough County alone, more than 33,000 drivers have received a violation in the mail after they were caught in the act.

According to the county, about 82.3% of them have paid the $158 fine as mandated by the state.

Hillsborough County didn't get to keep all of the money though. 

State law only allows the cities and counties to keep $75 of the fine, the rest goes to the state.  $75 of the remaining goes into the state's general revenue fund, $10 to the Health Administration Trust Fund, and $3 to the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.

After the county paid the red light company, American Traffic Solutions $643,861 and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office $34,684 for screening the images before the citations were sent, the county got to keep $1.8 million, according to Rich Rubenstein with the Hillsborough County Department of Business and Support Services.

Keep in  mind, the county had to pay the company and HCSO out of the $75 it gets to keep for each violation.

The state, obviously pulled in even more money with $7.1 million going into the general revenue fund according to the Department of Reveune.  About $1 million to the Health Administration Trust Fund and $305,654 to the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund for a total of $8.4 million in fines collected.

Hillsborough County ranked second behind Aventura as far as how much money was sent over to the Department of Revenue in 2010.

"If you don't want to pay into this or you don't believe in this and you believe that this is  just about making money, then do what you're supposed to do.  The law states that you are to stop," said Cpl. Morgan.

Laura Kadechka

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