Committees approve red-light camera bill inspired by death of Bradenton man

MANATEE — A bill that would set statewide parameters for use of high-tech cameras to catch drivers who run red lights today won approval from two committees of the Florida Legislature.

A big delegation of supporters from Manatee and Sarasota counties were on hand at one of the Tallahassee committee hearings to back the bill, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton.

Among those speaking in its favor were Reagan and Melissa Wandall, the Manatee County widow whose husband, Mark, was killed in a 2003 accident caused by a red light runner.

“This is simply about saving lives, and about education,” Wandall told the House Finance and Tax Council. She asked members for their support on behalf of her family and all those who have lost loved ones due to red-light runners.

Reagan told the committee about a 30-day study done in Manatee and Sarasota counties that focused on three intersections where cameras were mounted, along with signs informing drivers of their presence. Violators got warnings, rather than citations with fines, he said.

“We cut our red-light running in half immediately, and had zero rear-end collisions in those days we ran those cameras,” Reagan told the committee.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee, chaired by state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, also unanimously approved a measure on the same topic.

The Senate version has another committee stop before it goes to the Senate floor for a vote, said Wandall. In the House, Reagan’s measure may reach a House vote as early as next week, she said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.