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Red light running sting nets 64 drivers

MANATEE — Over a two-hour period, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies gave out 64 traffic citations at an intersection Wednesday afternoon as a part of a red light running sting.

Deputies in the county’s traffic unit have been setting up at the 10 most dangerous intersections throughout Manatee County several times a month to catch traffic violators.

Sgt. Paul Fieber, who oversees the unit, usually wears civilian clothes not to tip motorists off.

On Wednesday, he wore a hard hat and vest posing as a Department of Transportation engineer at the intersection of 15th Street East and 53rd Avenue East/State Road 70.

A majority of the citations given by about nine deputies in two hours and 20 minutes were mostly for turning right on red without coming to a complete stop.

The cost of a ticket for running a red light is about $216.

The intersection is the third most dangerous in Manatee County. The No. 1 most dangerous intersection is Cortez Road and U.S. 41. The second intersection on the list is 53rd Avenue West and U.S. 41, Fieber said.

If a state bill passes, red light cameras would be authorized to catch drivers running the lights at major intersections. On Wednesday, the bill was in the Senate.

“We’re still waiting to see what the (Senate) does, but it’s getting close,” Fieber said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The cameras would eliminate the need for the stings.

However, the stings allow deputies to make other arrests and citations beyond red light running.

At this sting, one person was arrested for a felony warrant when he was stopped, and three other people were issued citations for driving without a valid drivers license.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said he will be disappointed if the bill doesn’t pass.

“I think we’ll work it out. At the end of the day, I think we’ll pass a red light camera bill,” he said.

Bennett said he supports the bill because he believes cameras would cut down on the number of fatal crashes.

“I think people would be more cognizant of where red lights are, and we know it’s a problem,” he said.

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.