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Florida State Senator Brandes releases new study on red light cameras

This morning, Monday, February 10, 2014 Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes and Florida State Rep. Frank Artiles held a news conference to release the results of a new study about red-light cameras (RLC) on the fourth-floor rotunda of the Capitol in Tallahassee. The duo, libertarians and a long, growing list of Florida drivers are working to ban the unpopular cameras in Florida, as has been done in others states. The study (results below) showed nothing unexpected and strengthened the need to eliminate the cameras in the State of Florida for the safety of its citizens, just as other states have done or are in the process of doing.

What is being found out is what the Libertarian Party of Florida warned about several years ago when the RLCs were first being touted about being used in the state - they are about revenue generation and not about safety. Over the last seven years libertarians throughout the state have gone to countless local, county and state legislative meetings to keep red light cameras from operating in the state. Studies were given to commissioners and state legislators denoting non-revenue generating ways to make intersections safer, yet most opted for the revenue generation model and decreased public safety. The Libertarian Party of Palm Beach County was very active trying to stop what it foresaw as a revenue scheme rather than protecting the safety of citizens. Although falling on deaf ears, or perhaps the minds of greedy politicians, in 2007, I (Karl Dickey) publicly stated:

Libertarians put a stop to this non-sense in the state legislature and in Delray last year and we will do it again in Palm Beach County.

The facts prove these cameras increase accidents at these intersections. It is interesting you don't hear of the politicians speak of proven, non-revenue generating examples to increase safety at these intersections, only things that will increase revenue and decrease individual rights. Amazing!

One of the largest red light camera operations lobbying for this effort in Florida has been implicated in some bribery of public officials in other states and Canada. Will another Palm Beach County public official be going to jail?

The Libertarian Party will be on the forefront of this agenda item again and we hope you will too!"

The study Senator Brandes discussed this morning, performed by the non-partisan State of Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA), found:

  • Even though national and state transportation organizations indicate RLC should be the last countermeasure considered for red light-running problems, the majority of Florida cities & counties say they had not tried other countermeasures first before turning to the lucrative cameras.
  • Total crashes at those intersections are up 12% and side-angle crashes, "most commonly associated with red light running" are up 22%.
  • Rear-end crashes are also up 35% statewide at RLC intersections.
  • A June 2013 count of RLCs in Florida revealed 922 monitored approaches, generating a record $119M in revenue last year.
  • Of the more than 70 Florida municipalities with RLCs, just 15 account for half the state's RLC revenue. That includes Tampa (No. 3 in the state), St. Pete (No. 7), Hillsborough Co. (No. 11), and Brooksville (No. 15).
  • Most municipalities turn healthy profits on RLC programs, splitting the revenue fairly evenly with RLC vendors. The rest of the money usually ends up in general revenue, with a very small minority of communities dedicating the revenue it to police, safety, or road repairs.
  • On "rolling right" turns, the required "careful & prudent" definition varies widely by agency and most do not have a definition.

Red light camera companies and the politicians they lobby, have long been involved in controversy. Red Flex Systems, one of the two largest red light camera companies in the nation, has had executives convicted of bribing elected officials and most recently was the subject of more bribery accusations. Someone has even created a website questioning the company's ethics. Red Flex was recently implicated in a $2 million bribery scheme as part of Chicago's $100 million red light camera contract. Chicago has now fired the company. Aaron Rosenberg, RedFlex’s former top salesman who was fired and sued by the company in the wake of the scandal, is retaliating with a counter lawsuit, alleging the company routinely gave gifts and bribes to government officials in attempt to steer contracts in not just Chicago however in 13 other states across the nation. The company, and perhaps soon the industry, is being investigated by the federal government.

Also in 2007, I responded online to a reader of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on the issue of red light cameras stating:

Perhaps it would be OK with you to have a GPS tracking device required in your car to catch you each and every time you make an error in your driving. It is after all in the name of public safety. And why stop there, perhaps all Palm Beach County residents should be required to have cameras in their home and backyards linked to the PBSO to make certain no other laws may be broken while at your home - after all it would be for your own good. The PBSO could be there in a heartbeat should an intruder enter your home - and they would know because they would be watching. And why not have a tracking device on your person at all times so the police would know exactly who you are, where you've been, what you've purchased, etc. After all, what would a law-abiding PBC citizen be doing in a "bad area" of town?

The fact is I hate red light runners and I know ways to reduce them. There have been extensive studies on this issue with the conclusion being the safest and most effective solutions NOT being proposed by our county commission."

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