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News Story
Updated: 02/10/2017 08:30:01AM

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The private camera lobby prevailed last week in what has become an annual showdown over the cash machines installed at some Florida intersections.

The action came in a tie vote in the Senate Transportation Committee, and it likely ends this year’s effort to ban the devices.

The end also came with a complaint from sponsor Sen. Frank Artilles (R-Miami) that his bill was undercut by the red-light camera lobby. American Traffic Solutions had put together a 24-member lobbying team to protect its turf in Tallahassee, according to the News Service of Florida. ATS is one of largest camera vendors in the state.

Of course, that was the fear when the Legislature changed laws to allow cities and counties to set up camera programs in 2010. Once begun, these programs never stop. While their value for public safety seemed highly questionable, more certain was their profitability — certainly for the private companies hired to install and run the systems.

And the effectiveness?

Advocates of Artilles’ ban bill pointed to a recent report from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that showed intersection crashes were up 10.4 percent when comparing data before the cameras were installed and after they were in place, the News Service reported.

The previous year, the DMV surveyed 71 local governments that had installed cameras at 276 intersections. That survey showed total vehicle crashes had risen by nearly 15 percent after the cameras were installed. Rear-end collisions had increased by 10 percent. (Experience elsewhere showed that motorists, fearing a ticket, tend to slam on their brakes, only to be struck from behind.)

In addition, crashes with serious injuries increased by a whopping 29 percent. Crashes involving pedestrians and bicycles also increased by nearly 17 percent.

Now, it was also true that crashes increased by 50 percent overall in Florida during the survey period. Still, the numbers undercut the safety issue.

The report also showed 963,039 red-light violations were issued from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015. All at $158 per violation.

The benefit to public safety? Extremely questionable.

The benefit to governments? Not bad. Of the total ticket, $75 goes to local governments, $83 to the state. One estimate of total revenues came to more than $150 million.

And private contractors? A large chunk of local share goes directly to them. And they certainly don’t want to lose that income stream.

It’s been said before that once government opens a revenue stream, it’s hard, if not impossible, to close the spigot. True again.

— Sun Newspapers


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