Florida City Council Embraces Accident Causing Red Light Cameras, It’s All About The Money

Clearwater City CouncilThe Newspaper

After two years of photo enforcement use in Clearwater, Florida, the data show that accidents increased where red light cameras were installed. At a work session on Tuesday, the city council celebrated the results.

Chief Dan Slaughter made a presentation to the council that painted the performance of the cameras in the most positive light possible. The city’s crash data covered a “before” period of July 2011 to June 2012 which he compared with two six-month “after” periods of July 2012 to June 2013 and July 2013 to June 2014.    

The results were confused by the city’s lack of complete data in the before period, which left out accident reports filled out on what is known as the short form. This typically includes most of the rear end collisions. Judging based solely on the more serious long form accident reports, accidents increased an average of 11 percent in the after period, including a fatality at Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road. After hearing this, the council’s enthusiasm for photo enforcement did not diminish.

“I guess my question, chief, would be: If we were to move in the direction of increasing our red light cameras, what other intersections would you recommend?” Councilman Hoyt Hamilton asked.

Clearwater generated $241,420 in revenue from the red light camera tickets issued by its Australian contractor, Redflex Traffic Systems at the two locations. The council noted that the city could continue to use cameras because the state legislature did not move to ban them.

“The other thing that is favoring the continuation of this at the state level is that the state gets the biggest part of the fines that are collected,” Councilman Bill Johnson said. “They’re beginning to realize the importance of the collections at the state level, which are probably more than at a city level like Clearwater.”

Clearwater earns less than some other cities because it abides by state law that prohibits the issuance of photo tickets to drivers who make safe, rolling turns on red.

“It was because of some issues with the statute we weren’t comfortable with,” Chief Slaughter said. “We still don’t use [right-turn ticketing] to this day.”

Chief Slaughter pointed to a downward trend in the accident rate in the after period from 2013 to 2014 as evidence of the cameras’ success, but this result cannot be attributed solely to the presence of cameras. On May 31, 2013, the Florida Department of Transportation revised its formula to mandate slightly longer yellow times. The impact of the change was immediate. At Chestnut Street and South Fort Harrison Avenue, the average violation rate fell by nearly half from 0.05 percent to less than 0.03 percent. At Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road, the violation rate fell below 0.02 percent with the longer yellow.

“There is a period where the yellow light was implemented,” Chief Dan Slaughter said, pointing to a violation chart. “You can see that did have a positive impact as well.”


3 thoughts on “Florida City Council Embraces Accident Causing Red Light Cameras, It’s All About The Money

  1. “The results were confused by the city’s lack of complete data in the before period…This typically includes most of the rear end collisions.”

    Regardless of which side of the debate the truth falls to, this sentence reveals that they have no useful data whatsoever, but will present their numeric nonsense to further their argument anyway. Red light cameras make money, so you’re going to see more of them. No one cares if they cause accidents or not.

    I wish the American people would learn to ignore all statistical evidence unless they have detailed information regarding how the data was collected, because these numbers are used to deceive people much more often than they’re used to discover or reveal facts.

  2. When these camera’s came out about 10 years ago I immediately said “all they have to do is speed up the yellow light and it then becomes impossible to stop in time”. Stating the obvious they still don’t have a standard to base yellow lights length of time on. For example if the speed limit is 50mph then the yellow light must be (say) 5 seconds. If the speed limit is 35 mph then the yellow light must be 3.5 seconds. Some kind of standard. You can’t just go around installing camera’s at intersections and stick a 2 second yellow light while the speed limit is 55 mph. When this question was raised the spokesman for the company that makes these lights here in California said this…quote..”We can’t put longer yellow lights because people in California are in a hurry”. I kid you not.

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