State Politics

Gov. Crist signs red-light camera bill

MANATEE — Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act on Thursday, creating uniform standards for the use of cameras as a deterrent to red-light running.

The measure carries the name of Mark Wandall, an East Manatee resident who died in 2003 in a violent crash caused by a red-light runner. For years, his widow, Tara resident Melissa Wandall, and state House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, worked together to get the legislation passed.

“Today, I was pleased to sign a bill that will save the lives of Floridians. The legislation provides law enforcement with another effective tool to enforce safe and responsible driving on our roads,” Crist said in a statement released Thursday night.

The AAA Auto Club South made an 11th hour effort to persuade the governor to veto the bill.

“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 statement from Crist said he hopes to hold a ceremonial bill signing in the near future with Melissa Wandall.

Reached at home Thursday night, Wandall said her daughter, Madison, never got to meet her husband, who she called a great man.

“But we were able to do something great for others,” she said. “I am absolutely excited. We have waited five years for this day.”

In his statement, Crist praised Sen. Thad Altman and Reagan for their work in getting the bill through both houses of the legislature.

“I also commend Melissa Wandall, whose determination and perseverance, along with the strong support of the law enforcement community, was instrumental in the passage of this law,” Crist said.

Violators would receive a fine for the noncriminal infraction.

A portion of proceeds would go to the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund and the Department of Health Administrative Trust Fund for support of trauma centers.