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Red-light citations still high, but dropping

MANATEE -- Since the first of four red light cameras was installed in 2009 in Bradenton, the number of people being cited for running red lights is slowly diminishing, according to the Bradenton Police Department.

Still, dozens of people are still being flagged for running red lights in the city every week.

“There are still hundreds of citations being issued each month,” said Sgt. Brian Thiers, who has been in charge of the department’s red light camera operation since it started and recently handed it over to Sgt. Eddie Weldon. “But I do believe people are slowing down because the numbers are starting to trickle down.”

The exact number of citations at the four intersections was not available Tuesday, but Thiers confirmed that the number is still lofty.

A red light runner pays $158 for a ticket and the city pays roughly $4,600 per month per camera to a company called ACS Incorporated to process the images, Theirs said.

The program is running in the black, Thiers added.

Anywhere from 50 to 75 cars are checked daily from the cameras with about 40 to 45 approved for citations, according to Weldon.

A national study released Tuesday found that red light cameras have reduced the rate of fatal crashes by 24 percent in 14 large cities that introduced red light cameras between 1996 and 2004.

According to a study released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 159 lives were saved over five years in those cities. If all large cities had cameras, 815 lives could have been saved, according to the study.

“Red light cameras are working,” said institute President Adrian Lund. “There are hundreds of people who are alive because some communities had the courage to use this method of enforcement.”

The Florida Civil Rights Association took issue with the study, however, contending the numbers were skewed and the institute promotes automated traffic enforcement only to bring in higher insurance premiums for drivers.

In Bradenton, red light cameras have not impacted fatalities as much as they have in those larger cities, Thiers said.

“Our fatalities are spread out,” Thiers said. “The majority of our fatal crashes are DUI-related.”

Six more cameras going up

Bradenton has six more cameras to be installed at yet-to-be-determined spots, Thiers said.

Manatee is in contract discussions about red light cameras, but there are none yet in the county’s jurisdiction, said county spokesman Nick Azzara.

The intersection of 15th Street West and Manatee Avenue West has a red light camera pointed at eastbound Manatee Avenue traffic.

“That’s the intersection that produces the most citations,” Thiers said. “We are not sure why. Maybe it’s because people are just getting through downtown.”

The red light camera at First Street at Manatee Avenue with the camera pointed southbound was the first one installed in August 2009 and it is still a revenue producer.

The second camera installed is at First Street and points at westbound Manatee Avenue traffic and, like the others, includes required signs that state the intersection is “photo enforced.”

The third camera points at eastbound Seventh Avenue East traffic at Ninth Street East.

The final camera is the one on 15th Street West, which was installed last June.

Local advocates praise results

Both former Florida Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, and local red light camera activist Melissa Wandall say the Insurance Institute study and the downward trend of Bradenton citations reconfirm what they felt was fact -- that red light cameras are effective tools to re-condition motorists.

“Cameras are the truest and quickest way to educate drivers on how to stop on red again,” said Wandall, who worked with Reagan to get The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act passed in 2010 in honor of her husband, Mark, who was killed by a red light runner at the intersection of State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard.

The Wandall Bill doesn’t require local governments to use red light cameras, but gives them permission to do if they wish, Wandall said.

“When you run a red light, you get a ticket in the mail,” Wandall said. “You get no points on your record and it doesn’t go to your insurance company. These cameras are only taking pictures of those people who are entering intersections on red. If your front tires go over the intersection line on yellow, you won’t be running a red light.”

But the intersection where her husband was killed still does not have a red light camera.

“I really hope this study moves Manatee County to start up its program,” Wandall said. “I think everyone was waiting for the bill to pass and now some are stalling.”

Reagan says he has been telling people for five years that red light cameras are worthy.

“In every single case where a red light camera has gone up at a dangerous intersection, accidents and fatalities are cut by 50 percent,” Reagan said. “The study validates that red light cameras change people’s behaviors.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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