By: Sharon Aron Baron
In the second time in just a few weeks, another person who was desperately seeking medical help at University Hospital, was not only ticketed by a red light camera that was placed in front of that location, but the fine was upheld by the Judge Magistrate appointed by the city.
In the Channel 10 interview, Mayor Dressler adamantly stands behind the magistrate’s decision not to throw out the ticket. In the video, Channel 10 interviewed Jacob Alcahe who was worried he was having a heart attack, so he rushed himself to University Hospital in Tamarac.
“I really couldn’t breathe, I was sweating, just a lot of things going on,” said Alcahe.
A few weeks later, Alcahe said he experienced similar symptoms when he received a $158 ticket in the mail. It appears the camera on University Drive at Northwest 72nd Street captured him running the red light at the entrance to the hospital.
“I was just kind of scared and I wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible,” said Alcahe.
To make matters worse, the city’s magistrate refused to dismiss the ticket even after he showed them his discharge papers from the hospital.
“I went to the hearing and they just told me it wasn’t a good enough excuse,” Alcahe said.
Fort Lauderdale ticket attorney Ted Hollander, of The Ticket Clinic, believes the city put the camera there specifically to nab drivers so desperate for medical help, they’d run a red light.
“I’ve been a lawyer a long time and I’ve really never seen a city do something that’s so greedy, in my opinion,” said Hollander.
Hollander questions the state system that requires cities to pay their magistrates salaries.
“The person that’s acting as the judge is paid by Tamarac,” said Hollander. “Tamarac is the same city that’s giving the ticket so why wouldn’t that person say, of course, Tamarac gets the money?”
“Because if she doesn’t?” asked Local 10’s Roger Lohse.
“She will probably lose her position,” Hollander said.
The red-light camera on University Drive near the hospital is one of nine red-light cameras in Tamarac. The cross street is Northwest 72nd Street and it’s a two-lane road. The city calls it one of its most dangerous intersections, yet there’s only one camera there: it points north, where it can catch drivers turning left into the hospital.
Tamarac Mayor Harry Dressler said, “The city is not condoning, neither are we preying on anyone.”
Dressler told Local 10 the city is only trying to keep drivers safe and stands by the magistrate who, to date, has upheld at least two violations issued to emergency room patients.
“So if you’re headed to the emergency room here in Tamarac and you’re having trouble breathing, wait for the light to turn green?” asked Lohse.
“OK, it’s two minutes before my meeting. You’re going to have to excuse me. Please tell your viewers it’s illegal and it’s dangerous,” Dressler said.
“I was very surprised. I didn’t think it was right,” said Alcahe.
It turns out Alcahe was just having a panic attack. He’s fine now but said the $283 fine and fee he had to pay for racing to the hospital that day still stings.
“I would understand why they would have it at other streets, but the fact that it was at that turning signal for people that have emergencies each day, I just think that’s wrong, that’s not fair,” said Alcahe.
The city said it has issued 494 red-light violations at that intersection since the camera was turned on in August. However, city officials couldn’t tell Local 10 how many of those violators were turning left into the hospital.
This money grab hits home because I use this intersection frequently (so far non-emergency thank goodness). My two elderly parents are frequently in and out of this hospital. There is no good reason for a red light camera at this intersection… If you want to grab our money move it one intersection south to the intersection of Commercial Blvd and University, which has an extremely high rate of accidents. This red light camera at this intersection should be taken down in the name of safety. I have witnessed numerous near rear end collisions at this intersection… I have also noticed flashes at night (which is annoying at all red light intersections) when no cars drive through.’ – Commenter on Channel 10 article
This red light only targets cars making a left-hand turn into the hospital, not even cars running lights through the intersection. What type of message is our city officials sending to its residents when they are targeting their own sick and elderly that are visiting the hospital?