BRADENTON — The city is issuing more tickets for red-light running at a busy downtown intersection since the city’s first red-light camera was installed there Aug. 1, 2009, but so far the camera has not led to fewer accidents, according city statistics.
There were 15 crashes there between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009 — which included two months during which the camera was in operation.
From Oct. 1 through Aug. 3 of this year, there have been 16 crashes, according to Bradenton Police Department statistics.
From Aug. 1, 2009, to Aug. 3, 2010, the city issued 1,258 tickets for red-light running as captured by the cameras, or about 100 a month. In the prior three years, officers had issued about 20 citations a year for all traffic-related infractions at the intersection, according to records.
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When the camera was installed on property belonging to the Bradenton Herald, the hope was to deter motorists from running red lights and to reduce crashes.
People are still learning, though, said Bradenton Police Department Traffic Sgt. Brian Thiers.
“I’d like to see the number of camera citations go down,” he said. “This is still a brand new thing for many people.”
Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said the number of accidents is actually a good sign.
“That’s one of the things I was waiting on. A lot of people said, ‘They cause collisions.’ Apparently they haven’t with our traffic lights,” he said. “If anything, I was hoping for a decrease. At least the data show they don’t cause any accidents. We’re going to keep analyzing the data.”
Florida’s red-light camera law took effect July 1, allowing municipalities to install cameras at intersections and to cite violators and fine them $158.
Local governments get to keep $75 of the $158. State economists have estimated the state will receive $29 million in the first year, and $95 million annually by the 2013-14 budget year.
Motorists running red lights were blamed for 76 deaths and 5,607 injuries to people in 2008, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
The city of Bradenton has installed a total of four cameras, and the Manatee County Commission has approved red light cameras for five locations in the unincorporated county.
The county government is in talks with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to set up a system under which deputies would review the citation before it is mailed to a motorist, similar to the system Bradenton uses, said Nick Azzara, Manatee County information outreach coordinator.
“Once an agreement is reached, there will be a 30-day grace period at each intersection before the cameras go live,” Azzara said. “The idea here being to give drivers plenty of notice and to start getting people into better driving habits.”