Opinion

By Reggie Connell

I hate red light cameras. Who doesn’t?

I’m not going to get into specifics about my ire for them, but it has merit. Trust me.

Okay, well I will get into a little of my angst about RLC’s… first of all they are sneaky. They sit on a pole and judge you, and they judge you without any immediate human interaction. Then a month later you learn in the mail of your infraction. It’s frustrating and maddening.

Okay my venting is over.

I know my readers are shaking their heads “yes” emphatically and agreeing with every word I write and adding their own experiences to their disdain for RLC’s. And I hate to trick readers who are in agreement with my premise, but here is the thing…

We may be wrong.

Spend some time with Captain Randy Fernandez and Lieutenant Steve Brick of the Apopka Police Department, and your mind might be changed. They are advocates for the ugly black boxes that are sprinkled all over Apopka.

Fernandez and Brick insist the RLC’s are 100% about public safety, and they make a good case for it.

I pointed out the report on RLC’s by the Florida Department of Highway Safety that states both crashes and revenues are up… which would suggest that revenues are the primary reason if public safety has not improved, but Fernandez pointed out an alternative cause – growth.

“What you have to look at is the increase in driving and in community growth,” said Fernandez. “We wrote more tickets and responded to more calls in 2016. There is growth in the area. It’s expected that with growth and increased driving there will be an increase in crashes and revenues.”

In Fernandez’s confident viewpoint, this is entirely about public safety and changing the way driver’s think behind the wheel. And in Apopka, the statistics show a different outcome than the statewide report indicates.

“We have not seen the same results in this community. We are modifying behavior. One of the deadliest crashes is an intersection T-bone. Red light cameras modify driver behavior that would create that type of crash.”

This is particularly true of brand new drivers who have not built up years of driver behavior.

“We’ve all been driving for a long time,” Fernandez says. “But the 16-year-old who just got their license is just beginning their driving behavior. The next generation will be better drivers. Every generation is going to be better.”

They also take exception to the notion that cameras are being put in places with a high volume of traffic as opposed to where there are safety concerns.

“We have intersections that don’t produce, but they modify behavior,” said Brick. “We are changing the philosophy of stopping at red lights. Either way, we are focusing on community safety. At Sheeler and 441, pedestrian injuries and fatalities are down from 2007-current than from before we installed a red light camera, and the rate of red light infractions are down as well.”

Fernandez also points out that RLC’s are only one part of APD efforts to improve public safety on the Apopka roads.

“The red light camera is not the pill that cured the disease. It is a component. But pedestrian access, sidewalks, etc. are also a part of the improvement.”

He also insists that the revenues from the Red Light Camera Program are not the focus.

“The money is not important. We want the program to pay for itself. And it’s the violators who pay for it instead of it being an additional tax.”

According to Apopka Public Information Officer Robert Sargent, the net revenue from the red light camera program is $700,626.58 for 2016 which sounds like a lot of money but put into perspective with a budget of over $100 million, it amounts to less than one percent. In fact, the entire category of revenues generated from fines and forfeitures is 5% of the City of Apopka budget revenue.

Here is how it is described in the budget:

FINES AND FORFEITURES – 5% of this year’s general fund budget

“The City accounts for revenues generated from traffic tickets and code violations in this category. This source has decreased by approximately .4% due to a decrease in traffic light detection device infractions. The long-term outlook for this source is not good. The state is taking a larger and larger share of the ticket revenues to support the cost of the courts.  Therefore this revenue source may be increasing now, but could decrease in the long-term.”

And Fernandez can foresee a day where no red light cameras exist.

“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if we had no red light cameras and no one running red lights. It’s about the public’s safety, not the cameras.”

It wouldn’t hurt my feelings either, but after spending time with the APD, I better understand their use. And I have to admit, my driving behavior has changed for the good.

Reggie Connell is the Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Safety my ass…It’s all about money .They also have been proven to cause accidents. They got rid of them in Collier County because of that fact. By the way Randy How much of a kick back does the Apopka PD get from these???Right..

  2. What a dumb article with zero critical thought put into it. The author provides ONE safety statistic from ONE intersection, which was self reported by city employees in the revenue stream. Nothing is mentioned regarding engineering countermeasures like longer yellows to reduce violations. I see nothing in this article regarding decreased traffic during the recession. This would have an obvious positive effect on violations and crashes, but the PD and their cronies at shady traffic camera contractor ATS have no problem jumping on excuses for increases in crashes. Meanwhile, Apopka’s new desk jockeys will continue to click away, issuing chicken-s*** tickets for ‘violations’ as little as one tenth of a second (most ticket camera violations pose zero safety hazard). This is the same concept as issuing a vehicle owner an illegal speeding ticket for 1mph over the limit. One has to wonder how the folks issuing these tickets and the ones running this scam can look themselves in the mirror every morning.

  3. If my husband runs to the store in my car, registered in my name only, and he gets a red-light ticket, I get sent the bill, even if I was not the one to get the ticket, and wasn’t even in the car, but at home………..unfair.
    If I test drive a new vehicle from a dealer, and run the red-light, the red-light camera reviewers send the car dealer a ticket in the mail……unfair and costly for them.
    If my mechanic works on my car that I left him to fix, and he takes it for a test drive to see if it is fixed, and runs a red-light, the reviewers send the red-light ticket to me in the mail……this whole red-light camera ticket is an unfair system. Plus, your car insurance will investigate any tickets and will up your car insurance that is already too much and jump it up!!! Unfair!!!
    If you let your children, your friends, your neighbor, your relative, or anyone else use your car and they get a red-light ticket you get the bill……unfair! Red-light cameras suck and are unfair!!!!

  4. If you can tolerate the RLCs for 3 more years, they will be gone bye-bye in Florida come 2020, hello…!!! So says they, if the stars and planets all line up correctly in Tallahassee.

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