Posts Tagged ‘traffic’

Big Brother Has Traffic Control Cameras & May Send You a Fine of $158

Part I
Rita Surber of Inglis called The Newscaster Comment Line recently, complaining about receiving a traffic ticket in the amount of $158 due to one of the traffic enforcement cameras in Dunnellon snapping a picture of her car tag.

The intersection where the incident took place is U.S. Hwy. 41 at Powell Rd. during late afternoon on Dec. 20. She said she turned right on a red light after coming to a stop, at least she thought she had completely stopped until she received notification of the violation and fine. “I had been turning there for over twenty years and had never gotten a violation,” she said. The notice informed her that she would not receive points against her driver’s license if she paid the fine prior to the due date. “But I think, if you receive a violation on something, you should also receive points,” Surber said. The notice informed her that it was sent in relation to the Dunnellon Police Department’s Intersection Safety Program, and instructed her to send the $158 to an address in Tempe, Arizona. “It’s a rip-off,” she chuckled good naturedly, “A way of theft.” Her husband also commented. “Crooked,” he said, several times.

Dunnellon’s traffic light cameras were installed in late October – two at U.S. 41 and Powell Rd., one at U.S. 41 North and Brooks St., and one at U.S. 41 South. Warnings were issued the first thirty days, but violators now receive fines of $158.

This brought to mind a complaint I’d heard about a similar camera enforcement program in Louisiana by a man who purchased his son an older-model SUV, but left it in his name since he would be paying the insurance. In the two years since he purchased the SUV, he’s paid slightly more that $1,000 in camera-related fines for various offenses, such as his son speeding on off-ramps or running red lights. Since his son doesn’t want his father lecturing him about the fines, he’s avoided telling his father about the fines until they’re past the due dates and the fines have greatly increased. I feel that this is a good example of why many parents turn prematurely gray! Luckily for the father, points are not accumulated against a vehicle owner’s driver’s license in Louisiana for camera-related traffic offenses because the camera can’t identify the driver of the vehicle.

A decade-long legislative battle ensued in the State of Florida before former Gov. Charlie Crist signed HB325 into law in May of 2010, resulting in the Law of Florida 2010-80 taking effect on July 1, 2010. Within one month of the law taking effect, more than 50 Florida municipalities and cities were using the cameras. These cameras can address speeding and stopping violations, depending on the decisions of the municipalities using them.

The National Motorist Association opposes the use of the red light cameras and cites ten objections to them: they do not improve safety, there is no certifiable witness to alleged violations, ticket recipients are not adequately notified, the driver of the vehicle is not positively identified, ticket recipients are not notified quickly, they discourage the synchronization of traffic lights, they do not prevent most intersection accidents, there are better alternatives to cameras, they are designed to inconvenience motorists, and taking pictures of dangerous drivers does not stop the drivers (an example given is that a fugitive could speed through an intersection at 100 mph and not activate the camera as long as the light was green).

Part 2

Some argue that slight increases in the duration of yellow lights at intersections is a more effective and less costly way to increase traffic safety than safety cameras. One Dunnellon driver claims that the duration of the yellow light is actually shorter by one second since the traffic light cameras have been placed resulting in “more violations.” Another driver stated that he didn’t believe the charges against him until he went to the Dunnellon Police Department and viewed their video, which proved he was guilty.

A seven-year study in six Virginia jurisdictions led the Virginia Transportation Research Council to conclude that traffic cameras were associated with an increase in rear-end collisions. However, the use of the traffic cameras was abandoned by Norcross, Georgia in 2009, because violations dropped to the point that the privately-owned camera systems were costing the city revenue.

The legality of the traffic light cameras has been challenged, and several cities in various states have abandoned the use of them due to legal challenges. In general, those opposed to the cameras say that they deny alleged violators the right to confront their accusers and violate a person’s rights to privacy and due process. Many drivers feel victimized by automated monitoring and ticketing, feeling that it leaves them with little defense against being ticketed.

Although the tickets generated by the camera generally do not add points to a person’s driving record, they can effect a person’s ability to register their car or obtain/renew a license plate.

At the the Crystal River City Council meeting, Jan. 24, the council discussed, but took no action, on having the cameras installed at six major intersections to address the running of red lights. They discussed that the legality of the red light cameras was addressed by the Florida Legislature in several provisions of HB325, which went into effect in July 2010. One camera vendor, ATS, has developed a statistical model called Site Location System, or SLS, and will submit cost estimates for two options, one which assumes the City would not enforce right on red light violations and one which assumes that half the right on red light violators would be cited – the drivers who turn right in a “careful and prudent manner” and the owners of stolen cars would not be cited. No action has yet been taken, according to Councilman Mike Gudis who said the city council is still in the process of getting estimates from various companies and exploring with Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy his position on the traffic cameras. Gudis stated that Crystal River is not interested in monitoring right turns on red lights. “That’s not part of our thing,” he said. “It’s perfectly legal, if you come to a full stop first.”

Regarding the traffic cameras, “We know some other cities have done it. Dunnellon is one of them, and Port Richie is another one,” said Gudis, “And I think there’s been a couple of cities that have had them and done away with them. It’s still up in the air whether we go through with this or not.” Gudis said he’s in favor of the red light cameras, “Because I’ve had a near-miss myself, and I know a couple of people, personally, who’ve been hit by people who have not stopped at red lights,” Gudis added, “The financial part is not the most important thing, as far as I’m concerned – it’s the safety – saving people’s lives and saving them from injury.” Gudis said he’s gotten mixed reactions from the public. “Most of them said they didn’t like the idea, but it’s important from a safety standpoint. Only a few have said, ‘No. Don’t do it, at all.'”

When he was city councilman ten years ago, and since his re-election to the council in November, Gudis said he’s told law enforcement officials, “The most important safety hazard on the road is, in my opinion, running red lights, because I’ve seen so many accidents and potential accidents on the road. I almost got run over by an eighteen-wheeler on Ozello Rd. If there wasn’t another lane there, I would have been run over. It’s obvious that some people will definitely run red lights, unless there’s a way of catching them, and there is nothing to me more important than stopping people from running red lights. Speeding is one thing. Stop signs are not something you would normally go after. High speeds – well when you see these eighteen-wheelers and other people, driving down (Hwy.) 19 at 45 and 50 miles an hour and not stopping for a red light, I think that’s a lot of potential for problems.” Gudis paused and added, “I’m not in favor of Big Brother and cameras, but when it’s done to protect people’s lives, I think we have to do it.”

Although these traffic cameras at intersections are considered traffic safety devices, they are also well-known as an alternative form of revenue generation for many municipalities. Florida law designates the fines for red light violations at $158. Municipalities or counties may keep $75 of this amount and must pay for the costs associated with the monitoring out of their portion of the revenue. The remainder goes to the state. The cameras not only generate revenue for the municipalities, counties and states utilizing them, they also generate revenue for the companies marketing them and the companies selling wares to counter or avoid them. There’s a photo blocker spray, a product that claims to create an invisible coating when sprayed on a license plate that supposedly reflects the flash of a traffic camera back toward the camera, overexposing the photo. Then there’s the traffic camera detector that provides an early warning of nearby traffic cameras. Not to mention that you can download databases of traffic camera enforcement locations to your satellite navigation system (GPS), PDA or mobile phone to alert you to the presence of cameras in the areas you travel. But in all the controversy about the traffic cameras, there was no mention of driving at the posted speed, stopping for all red lights or stopping completely before turning right on red lights as an acceptable way to avoid being ticketed by the dreaded traffic cameras.

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