MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Starting Monday, drivers have a new, less expensive option to fight red light camera tickets. But don’t celebrate too soon, because the existing laws are also getting tougher on some drivers.
The driving public and lawmakers have debated whether the red light cameras make the streets safer, which many legislators believe, or if they are simply a money grab by municipalities, which many drivers believe.
As estimated 400 of Florida’s intersections have red light cameras. Some areas like Pembroke Pines have the cameras on almost every light on some roads. But after a little bit of time in place, lawmakers saw both positives and negatives with the devices and made some changes.
The Mark Wandell Traffic Safety Act made the cameras legal, but lawmakers made significant changes during the last session. Right now, if you don’t pay the red light camera fine, it becomes a traffic citation and the only way to appeal the ticket is to take your case to a traffic court judge.
Under the new law, you will NOW have 60 days to decide whether or not to pay the ticket, prove another driver was behind the wheel, or ask for a hearing in front of a city or county employee, designated as the hearing officer.
It turns this traffic issue into a local issue, more like fighting a code violation. And if you lose, you pay just $50 on top of the ticket. If you want to take the fight further after that, you can appeal to a circuit court judge, but be ready to shell out even more cash if he or she rules against you.
Finally, under the new law, if you just ignore the ticket, after 60 days you will get a citation. You can still take it to the judge like you do now, but if you just ignore the ticket; the County can suspend your license.
What about rolling right turns? That’s where many people get hit by the tickets. The law requires drivers stop before the white line of the crosswalk or a ticket can be issued. However, at many intersections across South Florida it’s tough to see oncoming traffic from that far back.
The changes to the law allow drivers to stop anywhere in the intersection, but you have to come to a complete stop behind the white bar, on the white bar, or just past the white bar, or a ticket can still be issued.
The company running the red light cameras, American Traffic Solutions, say the cameras, even though many see them as an annoyance, are good for communities.
Charlie Territo would know. He works for American Traffic Solutions…the Arizona-based company that runs the cameras catching red light runners red handed.
“Nine out of 10 vehicles that have received a red light running violation haven’t received a second,” Territo said. “There’s no question that driver behavior changes. While individuals might not like getting a ticket, it makes them more aware.”
Community governments love the red light camera programs because with money tight from the Great Recession, the cameras are a cash cow for local governments.
The money is allocated with half going to the municipality running the cameras and the other half going to state trauma centers.
No matter your feelings about the program, your best bet is to stop when that light turns red. Because just like almost every other aspect in today’s society, you’re likely being watched.