AAA urges Crist to veto red-light camera bill

MANATEE — The AAA Auto Club South revealed Monday that it has urged Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the red light camera bill.

Sterling Ivey of the governor’s press office said in an e-mail Monday evening that Crist is reviewing the bill and has until May 15 to make his decision. However, he has said he is inclined to sign the legislation.

“AAA supports the use of traffic infraction detectors (red light cameras) for the safety of motorists, but only with strict safeguards that prevent abuses and exploitation of motorists for money rather than safety,” Kevin Bakewell, a senior vice president for AAA, wrote in a letter dated May 5 to Crist.

“The fact that only 10 percent of the fine revenue is to be used for public safety and health purposes clearly shows that this legislation was more about raising money than improving traffic safety,” Bakewell said.

Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, who has worked for five years to steer a red light bill to passage in the Florida legislature, reacted with anger when he heard that Bakewell is urging the bill be vetoed.

“AAA clubs all over the country support the red light bill,” Reagan said, alleging that the local AAA is opposing the legislation because the bill doesn’t favor a camera vendor supported by AAA.

“They didn’t get their way and now they are crying poor-mouth,” Reagan said.

Not true, responded Bakewell when contacted by the Bradenton Herald on Monday night.

“We absolutely have no interest in any vendor. The camera companies were out in full force to try to get us to back off,” Bakewell said.Melissa Wandall, a Tara resident whose husband, Mark, was killed by a red-light runner in 2003, as he attempted to exit State Road 70 at Tara Boulevard, said she was saddened by AAA’s last-minute opposition to the bill.

Wandall, who was almost nine months pregnant when her husband was killed, has lobbied for years to win passage of a red light camera bill to save lives on the highway.

“We have a serious safety issue on our highways. We need to do something to educate drivers before they end up injuring or killing someone. This bill (House Bill 325) is a tool to aid law enforcement, ” Wandall said.“It’s a waiting game,” Wandall said of what Crist might do. “I’m just sad that something like AAA Auto Club would come out with something like this.”