Red Light Cameras: Coming Soon to an Intersection Near You

redlightcam

By: Sharon Aron Baron

Thanks to your Mayor and city commissioners, an attempt at a quick revenue fix will soon appear in our city with the installation of red light cameras.

According to the Sun Sentinel, the first three of twenty will be installed Tamarac soon. All in the name of safety.

Forget about all those jaywalkers getting hit by cars…this isn’t going to save them. Nor is it going to improve the aesthetics of our city with their towering cameras hovering above our mildew-covered sidewalks where street vendors and panhandlers pose more of a traffic hazard than red-light runners.

No, there is no doubt that people that deliberately run red lights are a safety hazard, but the citizens of Tamarac have yet to receive what these so-called statistics are which led to this enormous financial and contractual undertaking with American Traffic Solutions to install 20 red light cameras in our city.

In the meantime, while Tamarac gets the first of their red light cameras, many cities are trying to get rid of theirs.

In February, the commissioners in Collier County on the West coast of Florida voted to remove all of its red light cameras and were met with applause from the audience according to Naples News.

Although the conversation was heated at times, the most compelling speaker on the issue was Florida Highway Patrol Officer Paul Henry, who told commissioners there was no change in the number of crashes before the cameras were installed and after the cameras were installed within an 18-month period.

Sadly, our city commissioners bought the sales pitch from the Arizona based American Traffic Solutions, that many other cities have: That by getting red light cameras, they are reducing the number of crashes.

Proponent of red light cameras, Vice Mayor Harry Dressler is even quoted in the Sun Sentinel saying, “Having the cameras promotes public safety,” he said. “It changes people’s behavior, and it reduces the number of crashes.”

Red light cameras that were installed in Trenton, NJ were supposed to reduce the number of crashes as well, but according to the Star-Ledger, the city has actually seen an increase in collisions according to a new state report.

A New Jersey Department of Transportation analysis of two dozen intersections that have had the cameras for at least a year found that accidents, particularly rear-end crashes, have increased, and the collisions are more costly.

Better stop behind that line or you'll get a $158 ticket

Better stop behind that line or you’ll get a $158 ticket

Rear-end collisions at the intersections were up by 20 percent, from 286 the year before the cameras were installed to 343 the year after, according to the report. Overall, accidents increased from 577 crashes the year before the cameras were installed to 582 the year after. The “crash severity cost” which takes into account vehicle and property damage, emergency response and medical care increased by nearly $1.2 million after the cameras were installed.

“If you believe the hype of these cameras, accidents should be down across the board,” said state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a critic of the devices. “But it’s just not true.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, city staffers in St. Petersburg apologized last December for not giving the City Council a key document about traffic crashes rising in a report about red light cameras.

“We had no intention to mislead the public,” said Joe Kubicki, director of transportation and parking management. “We don’t do that.” Kubicki took the blame for not disclosing that crashes jumped 10 percent at intersections with red light cameras in the past year.

There is good reason why our Mayor and commissioners may have been sold a bill of goods by American Traffic Solutions: They have been shown success stories manipulated by them.

Banthecams.org, a grassroots organization that was created to educate and equip local citizens with a way to combat the abuse of power being exercised by local and state governments with the regards to the use of electronic surveillance devices says that they have evidence that American Traffic Solutions misleads the public by changing or manipulating data it shares with the public and gives examples on its website.

For example, they say ATS embellishes their “success stories” by changing the definitions of an accident. For instance, one way is by changing an accident statistically, is to count it if it’s above $1,500 and not $500.

Another example was where a city was so desperate to show that these cameras work, that they only counted accidents as ‘accidents’ within 50 feet of the intersection. By using 50 feet instead of the transportation standard of 133 feet, they were able to more than halve their reported accidents at red light camera monitored intersections.

Another example was in Los Angeles they didn’t bring up what the causes of accidents were in their “success” claims. For instance, one LAPD claim was that five fatal accidents occurred at specific intersections before the red-light cameras were installed, and none occurred after.

The reality was that two of the five accidents were not red light related, the LAPD says, and a third involved a drunken driver who zipped through despite a camera there, mounted by a previous vendor. The fourth, “Caused by a young distracted driver,” likely would not have been prevented by a camera.

American Traffic Solution also has been reported to fudge their violation numbers before elections. According to TheNewspaper.com, Baytown, Texas, eased up on issuing red light camera tickets in the hopes of diverting momentum away from a planned effort to place a photo enforcement ban on the ballot. Statistics showed that, in response, city officials and American Traffic Solutions deliberately issued fewer citations. The program rejected 29 percent of violations in July 2008, but documents show the rate of rejections climbed to 54 percent in December.

“Why would they do that?” Resident Byron Schirmbeck asked. “The answer it that the citations weren’t dropping as predicted and the camera company saw a real public relations problem: How could they claim that the cameras were working if citations were still so high?

Simple, they couldn’t. The solution they came up with is to start sending Baytown Police Department fewer violations for them to review. This way they could say that fewer citations meant fewer red light runners and they could attempt to save their multimillion dollar program when election time came around.”

According to writer Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com who has written about red light cameras, said, “Primarily I believe that red light cameras are wrong because they violate the long-held judicial doctrine of being innocent until the state proves one guilty. In the case of the camera, you are guilty and must prove your innocence which often takes a lot of time and money.”

In the end, it’s not the residents that are getting rich over this, it’s the fat-cats of American Traffic Solutions that are making most of the money, because many people won’t contest the $158 ticket. If you do want to appeal the ticket you’ll need to pay the $125 fee to the Judge Magistrate.

Like them?  Well then hope some money goes back to help our city because that’s why they wanted these cameras in the first place.  Don’t like them?  2014 elections are around the corner.  Vote out those that voted for them.

Videos:

http://youtu.be/PgHVxE_l47s

http://youtu.be/KZkuwnHiPlI

 

More on locations of red light cameras and how to beat the red light cameras fines in later articles.

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident's a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That's why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.

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  • David

    Great…one more thing to hate about Tamarac. This city has bigger problems than people running red lights. This place looks like crap. Strip centers are sitting empy. We have no businesses worth a crap around here to patronize. Yes, and the sidewalks are a mess too and when are the parks opening back up?

    • Banphotoradar

      Why do you think they want the cameras? It is all about the money.

      • David

        Money? Didn’t you just read????? The Vice Mayor said it was about SAFETY. Think he drank the Koolaid?

  • $727739
  • Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html

    • Right. We need a drunk light camera to keep fools like this off the streets

      Bobby Brown Serves Nine Hours in Jail for Third DUI
      While California is known for having some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation, it seems Bobby Brown has been let off easy. He was released Wednesday after serving nine hours of his 55-day jail sentence for driving under the influence.
      http://zautos.com/bobby-brown-serves-nine-hours-in-jail-for-third-dui/
      L.A. County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore told the media that Brown was released early due to jail overcrowding and good behavior

  • Paul_Henry1

    Ask your local officials to provide the NUMBER of red light violation crashes at any of these intersections for the past year or couple of years, then again after an equal amount of time. Next, compare the two. This will help to tell you if automated for-profit law enforcement is effective for its desired purpose or not. You will likely find several of them have had no such crashes. Of course, if your local officials do this, they will be the first in Florida to do so. All others hide this data. To do the comparison I did for Collier County, I had to get state DOT crash data.

  • jcwconsult

    The rea$on$ official$ want to u$e camera$ are obviou$ to mo$t ob$erver$, and tho$e rea$on$ do NOT include $afety. Red light cameras are a pure money-grab scam.

    Here was the message I sent to Tamarac officials last fall when they approved the scam. Citizens only recourse now is to vote out all the camera supporters.

    Dear Tamarac Officials,

    It is truly unfortunate that your city joins others in Florida to take
    thousands and thousands of dollars from safe drivers with deliberately
    mis-engineered traffic lights, as authorized by the Florida Department
    of Transportation since July 2011 – per the precise details that I sent
    to you on the rules change.

    Unless your yellow intervals are timed at least long enough for the
    ACTUAL 85th percentile speeds of free flowing traffic under good
    conditions, then you will be taking money mostly from safe drivers. And
    your city risks causing more accidents at camera intersections, a
    fairly common result with the cameras.

    The Federal Highway Administration has some guidelines on yellow intervals, if safety is the goal.
    They MUST be set at least long enough for the 85th percentile approach
    speeds of vehicles. When the actual 85th percentile speeds are not
    known, engineers are to use the posted limit plus 10 mph for the speed
    factor in the equation to compensate for the fact that most speed limits
    are posted below the safety-optimum 85th percentile speeds. AND they
    suggest adding another 0.5 seconds where there is a significant
    population of older drivers which is true almost everywhere in Florida.
    See slide #28 on the FHWA presentation:

    http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/redlight/outreach/marketing/rlr_pps022509/long/

    If the ATS contract did not change from what was on your website, I see
    you have an out clause if the cameras fail to perform financially –
    which says a lot about the real motivations for the city.

    Then again, I have never seen a red light camera contract from any
    vendor that bases the payments on requiring significant actual safety
    improvements. The vendors would never allow that because virtually all
    the contracts would get voided for non-performance.

    If I read it correctly, I also saw that you do not have an out clause
    just for your city’s preferences,, if you want to end the contract for
    other reasons. Rest assured that ATS will insist on getting every bit
    of their pound of financial flesh out of the city’s hide if you try to
    end the contract early while it is producing profits for them. Profits
    are the only motive for ATS, and they are among the most dangerous
    vendors that any city could ever deal with if they don’t get every last
    penny they think they should get.

    Be prepared for a really significant backlash from your citizens after
    they realize the true revenue purpose for the cameras, and probably
    expect quite a bit of negative press over the years – until such time as
    the cameras are banned statewide.

    Plus you will be sending many thousands of dollars to Arizona and Tallahassee
    that would be of far more benefit to your community if they were spent
    in your local stores, malls, restaurants, service businesses,
    entertainment businesses, charities, etc. This decision will do serious
    harm to your local economy and all who depend upon that economy.

    James C. Walker

    Life Member – National Motorists Association

  • JayP

    Once again greed trumps common sense.

  • Hanrahan Demarco

    Funny thing…none of you seem concerned about all these fools breaking the law and endangering us everyday. I haven’t heard anyone complaining about all the red light runners in South Florida, funny thing that is… Punish the elected officials trying to make our communities safer? FUNNY THING THIS IS…

  • Mitch P

    Here’s for starters: Don’t run a red light, don’t worry about getting a citation for running a red light. Running a red light is dangerous whether cameras are up or not.
    I got a citation for running a red light caught on camera. $178 bucks around the holiday. Guess what. I’m never running a red light again.
    Your City, my City, we’re all broke. What’s the big deal fining lawbreakers. Logically, it’s a great way for a City to generate revenue.
    Do red light cameras make intersections more dangerous? Now, how could that be? Are you making society more dangerous when you take a picture of something?
    Do red light cameras represent big brother watching? If you’re worried about this, then toss your cellphone, Internet and satellite TVs out the window. Big Brother is watching, get used to it.
    Now the question remains: Do you whiners just sit at your computers and fart and complain or are you brave enough to go to City Hall and speak to your commissioners.
    You all seem to have great resolve in Tamarac with your actions against Grad. Now its time to seel what you can do about red light cameras if your panties are in a knot.

    • Mitch,
      Let me ask you this. What if you are a law-abiding citizen who gets a ticket for making a right turn on a red? American Traffic Solutions assured us that this won’t happen, but this summer it did. I have the proof. We received a ticket for making a simple right turn on a red at one of Sunrise’s Red Light Cameras. We’re law abiding citizens who don’t run red lights either. Now, this ticket is costing $158 and has created a hassle to fight!

      Did you know that you will also receive a ticket for your tires to barely cross over the line when the light changes from yellow to red? Watch one of the videos above and see that this happens very frequently. It will happen even more because ATS has been known to sneakily REDUCE the yellow lights on their red light cameras bringing in more tickets and more revenue.

      • mitch P

        To answer, I would first need to know if Sunrise, the city where you received your citation, issues citations for right turn on reds at intersections with red light cameras. For instance, Margate does not, but some cities do issue citations for right turns on red – in particular for those who “roll” when turning right on red, which I suspect you may have. Rolling is not stopping. Right turn on red or not.
        Ask yourself, what happens to any law abiding citizen falsely accused of a crime or misdemeanor act? They have to fight it. It happens every day. My heart throbs everytime someone falsely accused is finally released from prison after doing 10 years hard time for something they didn’t do.
        “ATS has been known to sneakily Reduce the yellow lights on their red light cameras.” It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I would like some evidence of that.
        Bottom line is, Florida motorists are out of control. They don’t use signal lights, they speed. They drive, eat, text and smoke cigarettes simultaneously. Residents should be more concerned about the threat that unlicensed drivers (many are undocumented) and unregistered vehicles pose to society. I laud residents standing up to fight red-light cameras, but I have to laugh because there are far more important things needed to straighten out government.
        I though about fighting my red light ticket. But instead I decided to pay it and never get another one again. I now stop on yellow. Simple as that. If I get hit in the rear by someone claiming I should not have stopped on yellow, their insurance will assuredly pay my damages as rearending someone is hardly defendable.
        Thanks for allowing me the space to reply.
        – Mitch

        • Please read the above article and attached video for documentation of this.

          • Mitch P

            The write it. Yellow lights were short long before red-light cameras came into the picture. What difference does it make how short a yellow light is as long as you stop for it. Remember, yellow means yield. Yellow doesn’t mean accelerate. Again, why citizens have a problem with red-light cameras for profit is beyond me. Most who are caught on camera are guilty of running a red light. All kinds of fees are attached to breaking laws – any laws. Fines, court costs, etc. I believe you red-light protesters may be exhibiting an imbalance in priorities. You want your kids to have computers, but you don’t want law enforcement to leverage technology to the betterment of safety and/or city coffers. You probably want our military to go back to fighting with swords too.
            If you really want to make a fuss, find out if your city has sent the contract out to bid. ATS is not a sole source provider. There are other companies.

  • Hanrahan Demarco

    Funny thing Sharon, you don’t criticize Coral Springs for their Red Light Camera program which they are expanding. You just hammer the Tamarac officails, but you let Coral Springs off the hook. Funny the way that is…..No big, long, less than factual rant about the Coral Springs program….Funny thing! So much for Coral Springs Talk.

    • Funny thing…hanrahnahn…funny thing…I wasn’t writing for Coral Springs Talk when they voted for scam cams. Funny the way that is. Isn’t that funny? You idiot.

      • Hanrahan Demarco

        Sharon, What I posted was factual and Coral Springs voted for more cameras last month. Don’t take it personally unless you have a reason to. No need to call people names who don’t agree with you. Funny the way that is….

    • David

      Funny thing. This dude demarco doesn’t have too much upstairs.

      • Funny thing….. Coral Springs hasn’t heard the end of this either: https://www.facebook.com/CoralSpringsTalk It may be too late for them, but I will make residents aware of how the city isn’t making a dime from these, not making their intersections much safer, but mostly, creating anonymity among the residents for installing the scam cams in the first place.

  • Mitch P

    Comments seemingly appear out of chronological order on this forum,.

    • Mitch, I’m sorry about this. If you go to the top and change the order to oldest first. It may arrange it in chronological order. I just changed the settings as well. Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments.