TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - After several years of trying, Florida lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a bill that would authorize the use of automatic cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights.
The Florida Senate sent a bill to Gov. Charlie Crist on a 30-7 vote that would authorize use of the cameras to ticket violators. Some dissenting lawmakers believe that use of the cameras violates privacy rights. "The main reason for this bill is to make our roads safer," Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, said. "It's going to make a difference in a very positive way to the people of Florida."
Similar attempts have been rejected in the past five years. "It's been no easy task," added a relieved Altman, who guided the measure through the Senate. "Our next job is to get the information the governor needs so he can make a good decision."
The bill (HB 325) passed Friday in the House and must now get Crist's signature before becoming law. "The governor has generally supported the use of red-light cameras in the past," said Sterling Ivey, the governor's press secretary said.
"It is an issue that he has looked upon favorably in the past." The bill is named in memory of Mark Wandall, a 30-year-old man killed by a red-light runner near his Bradenton home in 2003. His widow, Melissa Wandall, has led a campaign to persuade lawmakers that the cameras would serve as a deterrent and save lives," said Altman, who pointed to research that showed a 40 percent reduction in violations and a corresponding reduction in deaths and injuries in states using the technology.
A driver ignoring a red light who is caught on camera will be fined $158, but will not have points added to his driver's record. Insurance companies will not be allowed to increase premiums for violations. Motorists who ignored traffic signals in Florida were blamed for 76 deaths and injuries to 5,607 people in 2008, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
State economists estimate the state will receive more than $29 million in the first year and nearly $95 million in the 2013-14 budget year. Local governments are expected to receive $10 million in the first year and nearly $66 million in 2013-14. Local governments would get $75 of the $158 fine and state the remainder. Ten dollars of the state's share would go to health care and $3 to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis for brain and spinal cord research.
Many Florida communities have already installed the cameras at busy intersections, albeit under questionable legal authority.