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About 87% of first-time offenders do not re-offend, according to numbers provided by American Traffic Solutions. FILE PHOTO
Palm Coast Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 6 years ago

Red light cameras: safety, rules, and where the money goes

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by: Andrew OBrien Contributing Writer

Like them or not, red light cameras have made Palm Coast roads safer, according to Greg Parks, of American Traffic Solutions. 

“They are working here,” Parks said. “Crashes are down, violations are down and repeat violations are down. And all of this is provided at no cost to your taxpayers.”

With the changes at the state level, Parks provided an informational presentation during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, highlighting some of the frequently-asked questions on the city’s 43 red light cameras.

Out of six sample intersections with red light cameras, the number of accidents is down at four of those from 2010 to 2011, according to data provided. The citations went up by 10 and one, respectively, at the two intersections that increased.

Additionally, one citation usually modifies behavior, Parks said.

About 87% of first-time offenders do not re-offend. Ten percent are issued two violations, and 3% are issued three or more violations.

With so few repeat offenders, City Councilman Jason DeLorenzo wondered if perhaps first-time offenders could be issued warnings, not citations.

“You have proven that if safety is the real point, it can be accomplished by warning, because 87% of the people don’t do it again,” he said.

State statutes require the $158 citation, Parks said, but the city does have the ability to implement greater leniency and add payment plans or reduce the hearing fees.

The $158 is broken down like this: $75 goes to the city, $70 goes to the general fund of Florida, $10 goes to the fund for trauma centers (there’s a theory that there’s a link between red light crashes and trauma), and $3 goes to the Miami project to cure paralysis.

The city receives $700 per camera per month, no matter how many violations occur. That money goes into the street improvement fund for striping, signage, guardrails, traffic signal improvements, etc.

“The point is the money the city does get is earmarked for street improvement and traffic improvement, and nothing else,” said City Councilman Bill McGuire.

The other hot-button issue is clarification on right-turn-on-red citations. Under Florida law, it’s illegal to make a right turn on a red light without coming to a complete stop. The city, however, had the ability to not issue citations on drivers who slow to less than 12 mph when making a right-on-red turn even though it was illegal because the driver was “careful and prudent.” (If a road deputy saw the driver doing that, he could still issue a ticket for making an illegal turn.)

But under House Bill 7125, the state has since clarified the issue, stating that all drivers must come to a complete stop before making a right-on-red turn, even if the stop comes after the stop bars.

There are also other benefits to the cameras, Parks said. In at least 123 instances, city personnel have requested videos for other instances, such as accidents (45 video pulls), accident fatalities (two), hit-and-run investigations (19), homicide investigations (4), police investigations (48), vandalism (3) and robbery (2).

“It’s a free source of video surveillance for law enforcement,” Parks said. “Meaningful help for solving major crimes.”

Some residents have urged the city to put red light cameras on the ballot for vote, but Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said Tuesday that he has heard no discussion by the City Council to put such an item on the ballot. If 25% of the registered electorate ban together for a petition, then a referendum could be placed on the ballot.

Netts also said there are no current plans to add more red light cameras within the city.

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