A newly minted City Council did Thursday what the old one wouldn't, approving 20 red light cameras in the most crash-prone Tampa intersections by a narrow four-to-three vote.
A three-year TPD study shows an average of 30 crashes a year in the worst intersections. Police say the cameras work, that they change behavior.
Assistant Tampa Police Chief John Bennett told the council that, in other cities, "after the first year, there's a 22-percent decline in traffic citations, which means its working."
"I think the evidence is really very, very strong that it will save lives that," newly elected councilman Harry Cohen offered. "This will be a deterrent from people running red lights."
But not everyone was so sure. Members of the public voiced concerns like, "I don't want to believe that we are entering into the era of big brother" and "15 states in this country have banned the red light cameras."
The strongest evidence in favor of the electronic eyes are the statistics behind Hillsborough's recently installed red light cameras.
"Our partners over at the HCSO using the same technology, in just a short two-year span, have shown a 50-percent decline in injury accidents," Chief Bennett continued.
If there was a hangup, it was where the money goes, with the state taking half the money. Why can't, the council asked, the rest of the $158 fines go to citywide safety improvements to cut pedestrian and bicycle deaths?
"I really want to support this," councilmember Yvonne Yolie Capin said. "I just would like to see us use the money in a better way."
The answer, say city officials, is for council and the mayor to work it on in the upcoming budget.
By the way, because the fines are civil, they don't count against your license. And by law, a lot of the money goes to the state and to hospital trauma centers, where many injured violators and their victims end up.
The cameras will go in 20 high-risk intersections within a year's time. There will, police say, be a 30-day grace period where warnings, rather than $158 tickets, will be mailed to violators.
You can fight the tickets, but they are backed by a video of the violation you can view online.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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