State Politics

Lawmakers saying go on red-light bill

MANATEE — Orlando mounted 10 cameras at seven local intersections and, in seven months, caught 14,181 motorists in the act of running red lights.

That 14,181 figure is an estimated 24 percent drop in the number of red-light runners had the cameras not been there, a lawyer with the city of Orlando said.

Those statistics were part of testimony this week in Tallahassee regarding a bill proposed this legislative session that would authorize the use of high-tech cameras statewide to catch those who run red lights.

“I’m shocked by the number,” said Neil Spirtas, vice president of STOP Red Light Running Coalition of Florida, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports the cameras. “If you add 20 percent to that 14,181 and see what it would have been, you realize you are going to save lives.”

Senate Bill 2004, also known as the Mark Wandall Safety Act, has passed the Senate transportation committee, Business and Finance Committee and, Tuesday, the Ways and Means Committee.

The companion bill, House Bill 439, passed the Policy Council on Monday.

Both bills are now done with committees and headed to the floors of the House and Senate, Spirtas said.

The bills are named in honor of a Manatee County resident who died in an accident Oct. 24, 2004, at State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard. The accident was caused by a driver who ran a red light.

With her husband gone, Melissa Wandall has pushed for four years for the cameras.

“I feel great about it,” Wandall said Wednesday. “It’s the closest we’ve ever been.”

But the bills do have opponents. Some are opposed philosophically to Florida inching closer to a Big Brother or police state scenario with the use of even more cameras to watch over the public, said Spirtas, who is also vice president for public policy and small business at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

Others cite the financial outlay. It has been stated that the tab will run $4,400 a month in cost and administration per camera, Spirtas added. It took Orlando seven months of collecting $125 per ticket to break even, Spirtas said.

If the bill does become law, cities and counties in Florida will determine the intersections where people chronically run red lights and mount the cameras there, Wandall said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.