Only two of the original seven intersections once covered by red-light cameras appear to have been warranted based on crash data studied by the Bradenton Police Department as officials renew the red-light camera debate.
The west and southbound lanes of Manatee Avenue and First Street have the most issues as well as Manatee Avenue and 15th Street East heading eastbound. The other most dangerous intersections in the city that were not on the original program include Sixth Avenue West and Ninth Street West heading east, and 12th Avenue West and 14th Street West heading north. Each location averaged one to four red-light violations per hour during the department’s observation study.
Ninth Street West and Manatee Avenue West recorded the highest number of violations with 43 in a 12-hour observation period. Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan said, “This information doesn’t come with a recommendation. It’s just throwing out some information on what I assume will be an ongoing conversation.”
The first cameras were activated in late 2009 and until ending in August 2016, 43,813 notice of violations were issued with 8,801 citations written. The department’s study concluded in that time that there was a “slight” decrease in red-light accidents, but that an overall increase of accidents was recorded unrelated to red-light running. The report also concluded that only about 20 percent of the total accident reports studied in the past year involved accidents related to light changes.
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There is always a cost associated with whatever you do.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan
The two most outspoken councilmen on the debate include Bemis Smith, who opposes the cameras, and Vice Mayor Gene Brown, who supports them. Brown said a baby was born just before Christmas and that unfortunately, his grandfather wasn’t there to see it because he was killed by a red-light runner.
“He’ll never be able to see any of his grandchildren again,” Brown said.
Smith said the cameras wouldn’t have prevented the fatality, “It would have only documented what happened. It wouldn’t have changed it.”
Both agree that preventative technology such as sensors that could delay a red light from turning green if a vehicle is still in the intersection is a viable solution, but there will be considerable costs. Other cities are no longer sure of its effectiveness. Jacksonville terminated the sensor program and Pembroke Pines adopted the program, but never implemented it.
Bevan also implemented into the study the use of speed trailers, those digital signs that record your speed as you drive by. Bevan said there was a “significant reduction” in incidents when the speed trailers were in place.
“I would like to see those used more no matter which direction you take,” she said. At more than $18,000, it could be costly, but Bevan said, “There is always a cost associated with whatever you do.”
I’m not sure the red light cameras will survive the Legislature this year.
Mayor Wayne Poston
The study stated that if the city reimplemented the program today, the city likely would lose, on average, $1,200 a month. The city didn’t make a lot of money anyway, with the majority of the paid fines going to the state and vendor. Out of $5.5 million paid during the lifetime of the program, the city received $275,000.
“This board wants to save lives,” Smith said. “But from a monetary standpoint, there were a lot of folks making money other than us. So, if we do this, the public needs to know that the city isn’t in this for the money.”
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, Bradenton ranks in the top 3 percent in almost every category for crashes for municipalities of similar size across the state. Bevan said the solution is to use some type of technology, education and enforcement, as well as working with the city, county and state, to address safety issues as a means to combat the issue.
Where the council takes the debate from here remains unknown. The department’s study gave some council members pause given the low number of overall red light accidents and that other preventable measures may work better. Mayor Wayne Poston indicated the city is in no hurry to make a decision.
“I’m not sure the red-light cameras will survive the Legislature this year,” Poston said. “It’s not a high priority as it has been in the past.”
City attorney Bill Lisch said the red-light camera program stands a decent chance of taking another hit as cases flow through the Florida Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the program.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a decision come down in February or March,” Lisch said.