News Columns & Blogs

Red light runners, smile for the camera

When it comes to concerns about protection of privacy, I have none regarding putting red light cameras at dangerous intersections to discourage reckless driving.

Opponents of red light cameras usually offer the “Big Brother is Watching” defense of their rationale. Sorry, but what worries me a lot more are the zanies with lead feet who take it as a personal challenge never to stop on red.

This past week, workers installed a camera at U.S. 301 and Manatee Avenue in the city of Bradenton, surely one of the county’s scariest and most congested intersections.

The camera will make a visual record of those who choose to break the law by running a red light. The offenders can be ticketed for a $125 fine.

In August, the county is scheduled to consider bids for placing cameras at five other intersections:

n 53rd Avenue West and 34th Street West

n University Parkway at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard

n 15th Street East at 57th Avenue East

n Lockwood Ridge Road at Tallevast Road

n 59th Street West at 21st Avenue West

Absent on this list is the intersection of Tara Boulevard and State Road 70, where Mark Wandall was killed by a red light runner several years ago.

His widow, Melissa Wandall, has been campaigning ever since to highlight the dangers of red light running. Not because she wants to see anyone fined, but to save lives.

“There is absolutely a percentage of lives that will be saved” with the quiet persuasion of traffic cameras, she told me Friday.

She can’t bring back Mark, she said, but maybe she can help spare another family the grief she has experienced.

* * *

I’m a little sensitive to reckless drivers this week. My daughter was just in a chain-reaction accident, clobbered from behind. Someone plowed into a car, which pushed into a car, which pushed into my daughter’s car. Fortunately, she’s OK, but her car was heavily damaged.

Over the years, my wife and son have been in similar accidents, struck from behind while legally stopped. And I know of several in our newsroom who were injured and had their cars destroyed in rear-end collisions while stopped. In the accident involving my wife, years ago, the driver who plowed into her had a suspended license and no insurance. That driver went to jail. I think you could call that a multiplicity of irresponsibility.

James A. Jones Jr., editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.