A new study portrays a stark contrast between St. Petersburg's red light camera program and similar programs across the state.
The Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability claims many communities installed cameras without first making other intersection safety improvements.
St. Petersburg claims it worked through a list of ten improvements before installing red light cameras. The study also says while fatalities caused by red light running have been cut in half, rear-end collisions have risen 35 percent and angle crashes are up 22 percent at intersections with cameras.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told FOX 13 News that is not true locally.
"On the numbers that I've seen, it shows that rear-end collisions are down, intersection T-bones are down," Kriseman said Monday, adding "There are communities that are in it solely for the money. We're not one of them."
The state study also spelled out the money issues: Total fines from infractions caught on camera totaled nearly $119 million. The state kept $63 million of that total.
The remainder was roughly divided between camera vendors and local governments. St. Petersburg, Hillsborough County and Brooksville all took in more than $1 million before vendor expenses. Tampa was #3 statewide, with local revenue approaching $2.8 million.
State Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg used the findings at a Monday morning news conference in Tallahassee.
"It is deeply disturbing to think that cities and counties in our state may be choosing camera revenue before implementing proven safety counter- measures," Brandes said. "It is time we bring some common sense to the traffic laws of the state of Florida, and either terminate the red light camera program or to severely restrict it."
Brandes has proposed legislation to do away with red light cameras. Other proposed legislation would reduce the penalty, with the state keeping its current share and cities allotted a set amount to pay camera vendors, but without any local revenue.
That approach would essentially starve the local interest.
"It makes no sense for a city to engage in an activity that costs them significant money unless you can justify it," Kriseman admitted.
City councilman Charlie Gerdes, whose support of red light cameras is already wavering, agreed.
"If it's not working and the answer from the state is ‘Well since it's not working we're going to take your revenue away, but we're going to keep our revenue,' that smells to me," Gerdes said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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