You can’t seem to read a newspaper or watch the evening news in South Florida without hearing the topic of red light traffic cameras being raised once again. To say that this is a hot topic in almost every metropolitan area is an understatement.
The most recent problem is the Fort Lauderdale City Commission’s refusal to remove its red light traffic cameras, even amid legal battles and financial concerns. This comes on the heels of the cameras’ suspension on March 6 because a Broward County judge ruled that the city’s use of red light cameras violates Florida state law. Despite this ruling, the use of these cameras still has strong support from the administration and law enforcement officials.
One of those administrators, Mayor Jack Seiler, stated: “The commission still supports the red light camera program. These red light cameras save lives. Based on court rulings, the system needs to be changed. At the end of the day, you’ll see some red light camera show instead. “
The city currently has 32 cameras located at 20 different intersections, and based on the mayor’s statements, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Although commissioners have yet to vote on the matter, earlier this month they were quite outspoken at a City Council meeting about their intentions to keep the cameras in place, albeit inactive, until legal problems can be overcome.
At this same meeting, commissioners also agreed on a strategy that allows American Traffic Solution (ATS), the Arizona company that installs, maintains, and monitors most red light traffic cameras, incur any legal fees that arise. of these cameras. such as the logistics required to seek appeals.
Complicating Ft. Lauderdale’s tough stance on the matter, two Broward County judges recently dismissed 24,000 tickets for red light cameras. These traffic violation videos were reviewed by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) before they are sent to official law enforcement agencies here in Florida for ticketing. This challenges state law that requires only law enforcement officials to determine if a violation has occurred and then issue the traffic ticket.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach rejected a Hollywood appeal that the city filed in reaction to an October ruling. This ruling found that by using ATS, the city had improperly ceded the power to a non-police entity to summon red light runners, a power normally entrusted solely to law enforcement.
That city is appealing the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Hollywood no longer issues these types of traffic citations, but they hope to modify their program to be able to continue using it, but it is no longer at odds with state laws.
As I have said before, this is a lucrative effort for both ATS and the municipalities that use these red light traffic cameras. You will hear many denials from advocates of its use, such as Mayor Seiler, who was quoted as saying, “This was never about our budget. This was never about our bottom line. This was about saving lives.”
However, it costs Fort Lauderdale $ 4,250 a month for each camera. That remains the same even when the cameras are not operational; however, city manager Lee Feldman argues to commissioners that “we are losing dollars.”
Unlike the city manager, the mayor is adamant that ATS should not burden the city until the cameras can resume their role. After all, they aren’t really “doing” anything right now.
“They should release us from that obligation immediately,” he said. “We are using the system they suggested we use. It was declared illegal by a judge, and it is their system, not ours. I don’t mind leaving the cameras in place while we go through the legal process, but we shouldn’t be paying for them during that time. process “.
I guess it’s a matter of waiting and seeing if ATS will do the honorable thing or not continue to bill Ft. Lauderdale for its very existence. With those 32 cameras in place that are currently doing absolutely nothing, if ATS chooses to continue billing the city, that will result in a pure profit of $ 136,000 per month just to have them there. Hopefully, the commissioners’ early vote on April 7 to amend their contract with ATS will stop the outflow of tax dollars that appears to be happening arbitrarily.
Surprisingly, there are some residents who feel that these red light traffic cameras are worth the cost of the cameras and the controversy surrounding them. Local resident Charlie King recently supported commissioners in their efforts to keep the cameras in place, even if they are not working.
“You should leave these cameras on, even if it’s because of the placebo effect,” King said. “The system saves lives. Everybody knows it.”
Not everyone agrees with King. Many residents and organizations that have conducted studies feel that this may have decreased some types of accidents, but increased other types of accidents. This increase is often attributed to the shortened cycle of the yellow light, as well as panic when you start to move forward or execute a turn and suddenly the light changes rapidly. Stop? To go? Stopping at the intersection? This kind of indecision can be deadly when driving.
If you are one of the thousands of drivers affected by these red light traffic violations, call us at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation. We are focused on getting the use of these cameras repealed and we have a lot of experience handling traffic tickets for red light cameras.