Saturday, February 23, 2008
Story last updated at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, February 23, 2008
Cities, counties find loophole to red-light cameras, fines
The Associated Press
BRADENTON, Fla. - Florida law prohibits local governments from using images from cameras mounted at intersections to issue traffic tickets, but some cities have found a loophole.
More jurisdictions are considering mounting cameras and issuing civil infractions instead of traffic tickets, which can impact a person's driving record and insurance costs.
Two Florida cities, Gulf Breeze in the Panhandle and Apopka in the center of the state, already issue civil fines for anyone caught by a traffic camera running a red light.
Jacksonville and Orlando leaders have approved installing the cameras at intersections. Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties and the Tampa Bay city of Bradenton are among the communities considering similar programs.
Bradenton officials said their efforts are preliminary, but Hillsborough and Palm Beach county commissioners will debate whether to install traffic cameras at meetings in early March.
If approved, Hillsborough officials would place cameras at some of the county's 10 most dangerous intersections. Violators would be fined $125 per offense, much the same way a resident can be fined for having an unkempt yard.
Some state lawmakers want to change the law that prohibits local governments from using the cameras to issue traffic citations. Rep. Ron Reagan and Sen. Mike Bennett, both Republicans from Bradenton, have been pushing colleagues to pass a law named after a Manatee County man killed in 2003 by a driver who ran a red light.
Previous efforts to change the law have stalled because critics call the cameras an invasion of privacy.
And state officials haven't made it easier for cities that install the cameras.
When the Panhandle city of Gulf Breeze, which has just four stop lights, installed a camera at its busiest intersection, Florida transportation officials made them move it off the state's right of way.
The city also didn't seek an opinion from Florida's Attorney General's office, which has previously ruled against the cameras.
"We didn't really ask," City Manager Ed Eddy said.
Police Chief Peter Paulding, however, said the cameras have proved effective. "We've had about 3,000 people take a $100 violation," he said, "but I don't think anyone has ever gotten a second one."
Information from: The Herald of Bradenton, http://www.bradenton.com