Florida House committee votes to ban red-light cameras

ejohnson@bradenton.comFebruary 15, 2013 

MANATEE -- A Florida House committee has voted to ban red light cameras that were approved just two years ago to catch drivers running red lights or making improper right turns.

The House Economic Affairs Committee approved HB 4011, which would repeal the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, by a 10-8 vote. Only Republican representatives approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami.

"I believe (cameras) save lives," said Rep. Doug Broxon, R-Gulf Breeze. "But the problem is there's something about being confronted after committing an act. When you're in Indiana, or Illinois, and you visit our state, and two weeks later you get a surprise in the mail, that doesn't change behavior. That makes you mad."

Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, disagreed.

"My wife got a violation and it changed her behavior," Danish said. "That made me support cameras even more, because they really do save lives."

Democrats accounted for six of the eight people who opposed the repeal. It heads to the House Appropriations Committee next week.

HB 4011 has received a bit of scrutiny after it was publicized that Campbell's husband has received several red-light citations. However, Campbell said she is supporting the bill for her constituents.

Former Florida Gov. Char

 

lie Crist signed the red-light camera bill into law on May 18, 2010, after a five-year advocacy battle from Melissa Wandall and local legislators.

Mark Wandall was 30 when in died in a 2003 traffic crash on State Road 70 near Tara Boulevard.

"It doesn't surprise me. People are so fearful of these cameras that are absolutely saving lives," Melissa Wandall said.

"There are a certain amount of people who don't like the cameras because it's a privacy issue. Really, the issue is people are dying on our Florida highways and we can do something about it."

A study released by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in December looked at statistics from 73 jurisdictions utilizing cameras and found that vehicle crashes decreased by 56 percent at intersections were cameras were installed. Under the law, cameras are not mandatory.

"And I think it should still be a choice," Wandall said. "I think they should only be utilized at the most dangerous intersections where people need a constant reminder. After somebody is killed, you can fight to put people in jail. I'd rather educate the motorists before they run that light."

County and city governments, as well as law enforcement agencies, receive a portion of the fines that drivers cited by the cameras pay.

"I'm not for growing government," said committee Chair Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. "So I haven't liked the proliferation of these cameras, especially when you're profiteering from them."

Cameras are at several traffic lights in both the city of Bradenton and unincorporated Manatee County. The fee for a violation is $158.

Wandall was not surprised by the committee's action. In fact, the same committee approved the repeal in a 10-8 vote last year, but it did not make it to the House floor.

"If people choose to fight against something that saves lives, I can't think about them trying to get me down," Wandall said. "I just have to think about the people we've educated and continue to utilize my energy in a positive way."

-- The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.

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