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County to consider red-light cameras

MANATEE — The county may be following the City of Bradenton with the installation of cameras at five intersections to catch drivers who run red lights.

The Manatee County commissioners will vote today on a three-year contract with ACS State and Local Solutions to install the five digital automated red light enforcement systems.

Karen Windon, deputy county administrator, said Monday the Maryland-based firm is more attractive to the county because of the good experience the City of Bradenton has had with them.

“It makes good sense to coordinate with the city,” Windon said, “and the company has a strong program with a long-standing record.”

If the commissioners approve the contract, which is on the consent agenda of today’s meeting, the county transportation office has picked five intersections for the cameras: 53rd Avenue West and 34th Street, University Parkway at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, 15th Street East at 57th Avenue, Lockwood Ridge Road at Tallevast Road, and 59th Street West at 21st Avenue.

The system consists of a camera with a sensor that detects when a vehicle enters an intersection after the traffic signal turns red. The camera records the license plate number of the vehicle and the images are sent to the local law enforcement agency to verify that an infraction has occurred. After the verification, ACS sends a citation to the owner of the vehicle.

“This is truly a public safety issue,” Windon said. “If we change the behavior of the drivers, the program would be considered a success.”

The county ordinance calls for a $150 fine for the first infraction, with an increase to $225 for each citation if the vehicle is recorded running one or more red lights within two years. No points will be issued against the vehicle owner’s driving record.

Kevin Lightfoot, spokesman for ACS, said company experience and studies have shown behavior changes almost immediately after the word gets out about the cameras.

“Drivers may not be aware of where they are located,” Lightfoot said, “but they become more conscientious about red lights.”

Bradenton officials have a similar contract with ACS and the first camera was put into operation Thursday at the corner of southbound U.S. 41 and Manatee Avenue West.

The city will have three more systems installed at westbound Manatee Avenue East and U.S. 41, eastbound Seventh Avenue East and Ninth Street, and eastbound Manatee Avenue West and 15th Street, with plans for 10 more intersections yet to be determined.

The penalty for running a red light in the city is $125 per infraction.

Bradenton Police Department Sgt. Brian Theirs, who is head of the department traffic unit, said because the camera was made operational only Thursday, it was too soon to say if it was successful.

“Our long-term goal is to significantly reduced red light running,” Theirs said Monday. “But we’re very pleased with the way it’s been working so far.”

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