Reporting Gary Nelson
MIAMI (CBS4) – The car comes barreling through a bright red light, just in time to broadside a fire truck that has the green light. The car is demolished, the driver injured. It is one of dozens of red light crashes on a video released by one of the three major companies that provide red light cameras to cities across South Florida and the country.
The American Traffic Solutions (ATC) video chronicles many of the crashes and near-misses recorded by cameras that nab red light “scofflaws” and generate pricey tickets. The two minute-long clip is intended to illustrate the damage caused by red light running, and also to publicize the effectiveness of the cameras in reducing accidents.
The cameras have proved controversial. Many motorists loathe the notion that they can be nabbed by a machine and not a cop.
“I hate them very much,” said a woman waiting at a red light in Doral Tuesday. “It’s not fair.”
Not fair? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.
According to ATC, a study by the Institute For Highway Safety revealed that in cities with red light cameras, fatal red light collisions declined an average 24 percent in 2011. In Miami Gardens alone, red light collisions overall dropped a whopping 83 percent. The City of Aventura reported that red light crashes have declined by 200 in the two years the city has used the cameras.
“I hate them,” said John Vera as he waited at a camera-equipped intersection. But he said he thinks about them.
“It’s made me a more conscious driver,” Vera admitted.
Miami Police Sgt. Freddie Cruz said the red light cameras have made many drivers much more careful, knowing they might be caught on candid camera.
“It’s an excellent tool. It assists us with awareness and with violators,” Cruz said, adding that the cameras free cops from having to stake out intersections.
“Our manpower, we can allocate them and stretch them out to other crime reduction operations,” Cruz said.
Officer Kenia Reyes said images from the cameras have also helped police solve more serious crimes. They sometimes reveal suspect vehicles fleeing from nearby crime scenes, and help police identify hit and run drivers.
“Just by playing those videos back has been able to assist our investigators in closing their cases,” Reyes said.
Nationwide, there are some 650 cities using nearly 7,000 red light cameras.
The cameras generate roughly $3 million a year for Florida’s Trauma fund, and have added more than $100 million to the state’s general coffers.