Crashes in Bradenton decline with red-light cameras, officials say

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 7, 2013 

MANATEE -- State and local officials say crashes caused by red-light runners are declining due to the use of high-tech cameras designed to catch violators.

"The most common outcome since the installation of red-light cameras is a decrease in traffic crashes," said an analysis of a report compiled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

It listed results submitted by 73 agencies statewide, including those of the city of Bradenton.

Bradenton's results mirrored statewide findings: It reported a decline in the number of crashes occurring at intersections where the cameras are present.

"Crashes are down at intersections with cameras, they're considerably down," said Sgt. William Weldon, who handles the red light camera program for the Bradenton Police Department. "Since we've had the cameras in, every year, we've had decreases."

Neither is he seeing an increase in rear-end crashes resulting from those trying to stop quickly, he said.

The state's online survey inquired about the number of side-impact crashes, rear-end crashes and total crashes at intersections with cameras, which catch violators by snapping videos in concert with the traffic signal.

But it only asked whether the number increased, decreased, remained the same,

or there was no data; it did not ask for exact numbers.

The analysis concluded that 43 percent of the agencies tallied fewer side-impact crashes; 41 percent reported fewer rear-end crashes; and 56 percent had a total reduction in the number of crashes at intersections where red light cameras are present, according to a state documents.

Weldon's report to the state showed 8,915 notices of violation between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, as a result of red-light cameras at six intersections in Bradenton, according to city documents.

The fee for a violation is $158 each.

People assume the city is making a lot of money from the citations, but that is untrue because the state takes the majority of the money, Weldon said Monday.

From January to April, the state garnered $458,599.50, while the city accrued $82,838.90 from Bradenton's program; a company that administers the red-light program earned $32,550 each month, according to a tally Weldon requested from the city.

Last fall, the Manatee County Commission OK'd a system to nab red-light runners, but the first of its cameras have only been in operation since Oct. 15.

The Florida League of Cities lauded the cameras' chastening effect upon the driving public.

"Providing cities with the tools they need to keep residents safe is the Florida League of Cities' No. 1 priority," said a statement issued by the league. "And this technology has been proven to help authorities punish lawbreakers, reduce dangerous T-bone crashes and change the behavior of those drivers who selfishly choose to run red lights."

Melissa Wandall, a Tara resident whose husband was killed by a red-light runner in 2003, said, "I knew in my heart that red light safety cameras would be a vital part of curbing those behaviors, and they're showing they're working."

But she ached for the family of William Field, 80, of Ellenton.

He died Monday at the intersection of U.S. 301/41 and Haben Boulevard in an early morning wreck that witnesses said was caused by a red-light runner, according to Scott Tyler, deputy chief at the Palmetto Police Department. The intersection does not have any red-light cameras.

"A family's life is altered today," Wandall said. "Their moments won't ever be the same again because somebody made the decision to run a red light."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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