Green light on red-light plan
Delray joins effort to change law on use of cameras
By Erika Slife
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted July 19 2006
Delray Beach · The City Commission on Tuesday agreed to support an initiative that would allow local governments to install cameras at intersections to catch drivers running red lights.
Some commissioners gasped while watching a video by Redflex Traffic Systems that featured motorists speeding through red lights and smashing into buildings, cars and, at one point, a pedestrian. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based business provided a presentation about the effectiveness of its camera technology and how it can curb red-light violations.
"Red-light cameras reduce intersection accidents by 50 percent," said Jay Specter of Redflex Traffic Systems.
But under Florida law, police aren't allowed to use cameras to issue traffic tickets. The only exception is for toll violators. Last summer, Attorney General Charlie Crist weighed in on the issue, saying that municipalities that install red-light cameras could use the photos only "to advise a car owner that his or her license tag number has been recorded in a violation of the law."
Other cities have worked around the law. Pembroke Pines will soon begin a pilot program with cameras, issuing city code violations -- not traffic citations -- to red-light violators. Gulf Breeze, near Pensacola, also has cameras at intersections to catch violators.
Scott Maddox, a Redflex attorney, told commissioners a number of cities have expressed interest in getting the law changed, including St. Petersburg, Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee. Outgoing Florida House Speaker Allan Bense strongly opposes the idea and the proposal has stalled in the Legislature for years. With a new speaker coming in, Maddox said there is new hope.
"We're working on some legal opinions," he said. "We think we could get through this."
Delray Beach commissioners unanimously praised the idea and agreed Mayor Jeff Perlman should write a letter supporting red-light cameras.
"We should be able to jump on the bandwagon and do everything we can," said Vice Mayor Rita Ellis.
Under Redflex's service, the company pays for camera installation and its employees in Arizona monitor the feeds. When one catches a violator, the employee will send the photo evidence, which includes the driver's license tag, the time and location of the violation, and the speed of the driver, to the local police department. A law enforcement official will then determine if a violation actually took place.
Erika Slife can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6690