Ever since the implementation of red light cameras throughout the county, which were favored by many voters, including those who have received tickets for running them, local officials have held to the belief of their effectiveness and benefits.
But, the recent increase of red light violations makes some wonder about the cameras future or long-term usefulness.
Adding to the 10 cameras that were installed at six intersections in unincorporated Hillsborough County in late 2009, including those located at the intersection of Bloomingdale Ave. and Bell Shoals Rd. in Valrico, as well as those at the intersection of Brandon Town Center Dr. and Brandon Blvd., 19 more red light cameras became fully operational in the city of Tampa.
The state of Florida adopted new red light camera enforcement laws for statewide consistency outlined in House Bill 325 – the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which became effective in July of 2010.
According Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Cpl. Roy Morgan, motorists blowing through red lights have been receiving $158 fine, which must be paid within 30 days of receipt of the notice. Failure to pay will results in an increase of the fine to $250.
Morgan said that although the fine is only a fee and will not result in points on the license it will go on the registered driver’s record converting to a Uniform Traffic Citation (UTC) and will be enforced in the courts.
In 2011, cameras watching the intersection of Bloomingdale Ave. and Bell Shoals Rd. caught 2,546 drivers. However, the number of red light runners has increased in the first six months if this year.
As to the increasing numbers, Morgan gave multiple reasons, among them the construction currently underway on Boyette Rd., due for completion in 2014, which he said may be driving more traffic to the intersection.
“Wanting to avoid Boyette Rd., many drivers are using Bell Shoals and the intersection at Bloomingdale Ave., which they are not as familiar with,” Morgan said.
Interestingly, although a much busier intersection, the numbers reported at Brandon Town Center Dr. and Brandon Blvd. proportionately playing out the same scenario, with 8,240 red light citations in 2011, and almost 5,000 just within the first six months of this year.
Holding to the necessity of the cameras, Morgan emphasized that while the number of red light violations may show an increase, the number of crashes have decreased from 395 in 2008 to 240 in 2011.
“To us, it’s all about safety,” he said. “The bottom line remains the same. It only takes one violation to cause permanent harm.”
It is also noteworthy that the program is actually fueled or financed by the violators that complain about getting caught.
So far this year, there were close to 15,000 citations issued. Multiplying that by the price of a ticket, tantamount to a revenue of $2.3 million.
With American Traffic Solutions charging $47,500 per month to install and maintain the 10 cameras in the county, there is still plenty left over.
Bloomingdale Community Resource Deputy Curtis Warren, who routinely responds to incidents at the Bloomingdale Ave. and Bell Shoals Rd. intersection, agreed.
“The cameras are a useful tool that keeps drivers as well as pedestrians safe,” Warren said. “Since the cameras have been installed and fully operating, I have personally seen a change in people’s driving habits.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, red light cameras reduce traffic accidents by almost 25 percent.
For more information about red light cameras, please visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us. For more information on your specific violation, contact the Violation Processing Service Center at 1-866-790-4111.
The watchful eyes of red-light cameras installed at the intersection of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road are monitoring motorist since January 2010.