Florida's gulf beaches draw tourists from all over the world and nothing drives them away faster than red tide. Now it seems the tide is changing when it comes to red light cameras for some politicians who see both in the same light.
"The feedback I've gotten from many people, our hoteliers and people in the tourism industry, it's a negative. I don't think anybody is coming to Collier County because they have red light cameras and feel extra safe, that's just not it," said County Commissioner Tim Nance.
Nance thinks it might just be a reason tourists visiting the Naples area won't want to come back and he's not willing to take that chance.
"I'm very anxious to get rid of this onerous program," he remarked just before the Collier County Commission voted on the fate of the program.
County Commissioner Donna Fiala supported the camera program. "The sheriff sent us a letter and said he felt it was important for us to continue it."
But the majority of commissioners didn't see it that way. The motion passed and the cameras are coming down, making Collier County the first in the state to get rid of them.
Los Angeles is the largest jurisdiction in the nation to discontinue the program.
Commissioner Georgia Hiller, who introduced the motion, did not believe the red light cameras made the roads any safer and was happy to see the program come to an end.
"We direct that all red light cameras be removed from all intersections."
Later this month, American Traffic Solutions will turn off and remove all red light cameras in Collier County. When Collier County canceled the red light program, it paid $522,000 which represents the net amount owed to ATS.
FOX 13 contacted the company and a representative sent us a statement, which said, in part, "We are disappointed about Collier County's decision…hopefully, once the board has taken some time to become more familiar with the data the state and the sheriff's office has analyzed, they will reconsider so that all of the progress Collier has made in road safety won't fall by the wayside."
A new report by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says crashes at intersections with red light cameras are down.
"I think there is so much conflicting information out there, frankly I don't trust any of it," said Nance.
Commissioner Hiller is equally skeptical. They are both bothered that the state makes money on every red light camera citation.
"Look at who has a vested interest and a profit motive in this titanic money flow," said Nance. "It's not a wholesome thing in my estimation so we thought it was time to terminate the experiment."
Commissioners directed staff working in the Traffic Management Center to focus on alternative solutions to make the roads safer, including re-timing lights to make sure drivers encounter fewer red lights, checking the duration of all yellow lights, and perhaps increasing the clearance phase, when the lights are all red and no vehicles are moving.
Full Statement from American Traffic Solutions:
"We are disappointed about Collier County's decision. Our sense is that with the changes since the election, some board members simply voted before they realized 1) the dramatic correlation between the cameras and the prevention of accidents and injuries; and 2) the importance of this tool to the Sheriffs' Office in deterring dangerous driving. Hopefully, once the Board has taken some time to become more familiar with the data the State and the Sheriff's Office has analyzed, they will reconsider so that all of the progress Collier has made in road safety won't fall by the wayside.
"To that point, across the state, intersections with red-light safety cameras decidedly showed a decrease in crashes. In Collier County specifically, the Sheriff's office reported a 57% drop in accidents at its intersections with red-light cameras. In fact, since April 2009, accidents have dropped from 103 in 2008 to 44 in 2012."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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