9 Investigates out-of-state red light ticket scofflaws

ORLANDO, Fla. — Plenty of Florida drivers pay their red light tickets so they won't lose their license, but 9 Investigates found out-of-state drivers who are not paying don't always face the same consequences.

Channel 9 anchor Vanessa Welch looked into the system that seems to be punishing locals more than the people who vacation in central Florida.

Candice Herbert said she's constantly paranoid about red light cameras in Orange County because she and her husband have paid more than $400 in fines.

Herbert told Welch she paid the ticket to avoid the license suspension, but 9 Investigates uncovered data showing many tourists and visitors who run red lights don't pay the price.

Here's why: Florida can't suspend driver's licenses issued by other states, so many out-of-state drivers get off without paying.

"It doesn't make any sense at all," said Herbert.

9 Investigates sorted data from the Orange County Clerk of Courts and found nearly 4,000 out-of-state drivers owe more than $1 million in red light ticket fines dating back to 2010.

"It supports my argument that red light cameras treat people differently," said Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami.

Artiles has filed a bill to do away with red light cameras statewide and plans to use what 9 Investigates uncovered to bolster his argument.

"The system is flawed. The enforcement aspect is a huge problem we are trying to correct," said Artiles.

New cameras will soon go up at the intersection of Sand Lake Road and International Drive, the heart of the tourist corridor. If the trend 9 Investigates uncovered continues, out-of-state drivers will only pay 50 percent of the time when they are caught.

9 Investigates put a camera at the intersection and in 30 minutes saw almost as many out-of-state plates as Florida plates. Our data shows states with the most red light deadbeats are from Georgia, Texas, New York and North Carolina.

Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles sends notices to states when their driver fails to pay a red light ticket here in central Florida, but we found enforcement varies from state to state.

Texas doesn't even consider red light camera tickets a moving violation. In Georgia, failure to pay gets drivers 3 points on their licenses. It takes 15 points in 24 months to get a license suspension in Georgia.

Herbert thinks the punishments should be the same for all drivers who get caught running a red light in Florida.

"If I have to pay the cost, then everyone should have to," she said.

So who is to blame for the unequal enforcement? No one wanted to take responsibility. Employees in the Orange County Clerk's Office said they will send an out-of-state driver who doesn't pay to collections.

But the DHSMV said it doesn't have the authority to suspend their driver's licenses.