Who benefits from red-light cameras in Florida?

Starting July 1st, communities in Florida that wish to install cameras at intersections to monitor and ticket those who run red lights may do so with the Governor’s approval. Back in May, Governor Charlie Crist signed a divisive bill into law that will afford local governments throughout the state to install cameras on state-owned roads, or to begin to use those already in place, for the purpose of ticketing cars caught running red lights. In the past, communities in Florida were allowed to install cameras at intersections but could not legally issue tickets for violations the cameras observed.

The bill passed with comfortable margins in both the Florida House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, though the bill was not without vocal opposition. Rep. Jimmy Patronis resonated and seconded concerns of AAA Auto Club South, stating he perceives the bill was drafted primarily to increase revenue generation opportunities for Florida, rather than to increase intersection safety or decrease auto accidents.

Here’s how the $158 ticket would break down:

  • $100 – Florida’s general revenue board
  • $45 – community where infraction occurred
  • $10 – Florida’s Department of Health
  • $3 – Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund

Also in question is the effectiveness of a law which penalizes the owner of an offending vehicle, rather than the actual driver. It seems much more logical to rely on law enforcement to handle traffic offenses on-scene rather than via snail mail. Officers often make judgment calls as to whether or not a ticket is warranted, or if a warning will suffice, according to representatives of the Panama City Beach Police Department.

The new red-light cameras may also receive opposition at the city level for financial reasons. These systems are expensive to install, and the actual cost/benefit to the general public may be small and a hard sell for local government if the city has a low number of serious crashes caused by red-light runners.

In any event, it will be interesting to monitor how red-light cameras affect the number of auto accidents in Florida come July 1st.

Source: The News Herald “Red-light cameras legal but not Likely” 5/14/10