Manatee woman's red-light quest spotlights problem

rdymond@bradenton.comJune 14, 2013 

MANATEE -- A Manatee County official made a courtesy call to Melissa Wandall informing her a red-light camera would be activated next Tuesday or Wednesday at the intersection where her husband was killed in a crash after a vehicle ran a red light.

The new camera at State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard is the intersection where 30-year-old Mark Wandall lost his life just moments from his Tara home in October 2003, Manatee County resident Wandall said Thursday.

It's a fitting milestone in her 10-year quest to make Florida roads safer.

Wandall said she feels humble and a bit overwhelmed.

"I am grateful that Manatee County has put a camera here at Tara where Mark died," Wandall said. "But for me, now, it's just about a community coming together to acknowledge that someone died at this intersection and red-light running can be curbed."

Wandall has tried to convince red-light camera opponents that she wants to educate -- not punish, she said. That's been tough, she said.

"People against these cameras think I am out to catch people," Wandall said. "That is wrong. That is not my aim. It's all about making a safer highway for all of us to travel."

Neil Spiritas of the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce invited Wandall to tour a Manatee County red-light camera vendor years ago. He's since traveled with her to many legislative sessions in Tallahassee and shared her excitement when the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act passed, which set the standards for the cameras.

"For me, the camera at Tara and State Road 70 is symbolic," Spiritas said. "It's a tool or a method to keep people honest on the roadway."

Wandall, president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads in Washington D.C., said she thinks of her husband as she travels through the Tara intersection.

"He was big, bold and beautiful," Wandall said. "He had a calmness around him that could smooth any situation. He was truly an amazing person."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.

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