Red-light cameras: Safety device or revenue stream?

ORLANDO, Fla. — There are 49 jurisdictions in the state of Florida that utilize red light cameras.

The unblinking eye at the intersection snaps a picture of your vehicle and license plate and then sends that information off to be processed. Most of the time what follows is a traffic citation.

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Last year, 1,227,450 of these citations were issued, the second most in the state’s history, coming in just 477 citations behind the record set in 2016.

For most drivers, the fine for running a red light is $158, with much of that money going to the state of Florida and the red-light camera vendor. Local jurisdictions get what is leftover.

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In 2010, when the Florida legislature approved the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, it was sold as a way to improve safety. It hasn’t.

According to the state’s most recent data, total crashes at intersections with red-light cameras have increased, as have injury crashes. Meanwhile, fatalities have only declined from 22 to 21. In Orange County, which has 28 cameras, crashes have increased from 2,613 to 2,827.

“Driving with my family, my newborn son was sick. We just passed the fire station, and he made a big squeaky squeal baby noise. (I) thought it was a fire truck behind me, turned around looked (and it was) yellow (in the) intersection by 2/10 of a second,” said Orange County driver Stephen Facella. “Got a red-light camera ticket.”

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The intersection where Facella received his red-light camera violation still has a camera in place a half-decade later. In fact, Eyewitness News could not find a single red-light camera location across the state of Florida which was moved due to improving safety within the last year.

“Really they are not making us more safe,” said Orlando attorney Kelli Hastings.

Hastings, who has been involved in red-light camera litigation since 2015, pointed to the rising number of violations issued by cameras versus the falling number of violations issued by officers, as well as the number of citations paid as the reason why cities, counties, and even the state have kept the cameras in place despites their poor track record.

“You can read between the lines in these things I do think revenue is the driving factor as opposed to safety,” said Hastings.

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