Secure camera with traffic light and sign. Courtesy: Shutterstock-Photo by BIGCHEN
Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, is trying to get rid of red-light cameras in the state of Florida for good. Sponsoring measure (HB 6009), Sabatini hopes to abolish the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program law, a controversial 2010 law that authorized the use of red-light cameras throughout Florida after a man was killed by a driver who blew through a red light.
The bill is scheduled to be reviewed by the Florida House for the legislative session beginning in March 2021.
Red-light cameras have long been considered a nuisance by Florida residents. According to the 2018 Red Light Camera Summary Report released by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, total vehicle crashes in the state were up 15.1% from the time the RLCs were installed to the time the data was taken.
Fatal crashes, injury crashes, angle crashes, rear-end crashes, and other forms of vehicle-related accidents were up since the installment of the statewide RLC law.
Sabatini has long voiced his disapproval of the practice and has stated before that the law punishes “working-class people” with $158 tickets for “taking a right on red, failing to stop or just barely crossing the line when a camera is at an intersection.” His main criticism of the measure is that instead of altering bad driving behavior, it only penalizes people for minor traffic offenses that otherwise are negligible.
Similar repeal efforts have hit dead-ends over the years after receiving approval from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee but failing to move past the Senate.
According to the FLHSMV report, there were 508 RLC active as of June 30, 2018. 10 jurisdictions reported an increase in red-light camera installations, 11 reported a decrease, and another 28 remained the same.
Several cities throughout the state have slowly begun to “turn-off” their cameras, while others have vowed to keep them up.
Critics of the RLC law believe that they exist solely to create an extra avenue of revenue for local governments and have abandoned the cameras’ true intended use: safety. A 2020 House staff analysis estimated local governments could lose upwards of $75 million a year if Sabatini’s bill is passed.
The Florida Supreme Court refused to take up a case regarding the city of Aventura’s red-light camera program in late November, a program that has been contested as a violation of state traffic laws.
With conflicting studies reporting varied benefits and disadvantages of the RLCs, the law’s future is uncertain. Still, it should be watched in the future if the state representative’s measure is passed.
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