It seems as though you cannot pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news in South Florida without hearing the subject of red light traffic cameras being raised yet again. To say that this is a hot-button issue in nearly every metropolitan area is a serious understatement.
The most recent issue is the City Commission of Fort Lauderdale’s refusal to remove its red light traffic cameras even amid legal struggles and financial concerns. This comes on the heels of the cameras being suspended on March 6 because a Broward County judge declared that the city’s red light camera usage violates Florida state law. In spite of this ruling, the usage of these cameras is still strongly supported by the administration and law enforcement officials.
One such administrator, Mayor Jack Seiler, stated, “The commission still supports the red light camera program. These red light cameras save lives. Based on the court rulings, the system needs to be tweaked. At the end of the day, you’ll see some red light camera program in place.”
The city currently has 32 cameras located at 20 different intersections and, based upon the mayor’s statements, this isn’t likely to change any time soon. Although the commissioners have yet to vote on the matter, earlier this month they were quite outspoken at a City Hall meeting about their intentions to keep the cameras in place, although dormant, until the legal issues can be overcome.
At this same meeting the commissioners also agreed upon a strategy that lets American Traffic Solution (ATS), the Arizona company that installs, maintains, and monitors most of the red light traffic cameras, to incur any legal fees that arise from these cameras as well as the logistics required to seek appeals.
Complicating Ft. Lauderdale’s hardball stance on the matter, two Broward County judges recently dismissed 24,000 red-light traffic camera tickets. These traffic violation videos were reviewed by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) prior to them being submitted to official law enforcement agencies here in Florida for them to be ticketed. This defies state law which mandates only law officials can determine if a violation has occurred and then issue the traffic ticket.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach refused an appeal by Hollywood that the city filed as a reaction to an October ruling. This ruling determined that by using ATS, the city had inappropriately relinquished power to a non-law enforcement entity of citing red light runners, a power which is normally entrusted solely to law enforcement.
That city is appealing the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. In the interim, Hollywood is no longer handing out these types of traffic citations, but they hope to tweak their program so that they can continue to use it, but it is no longer at odds with state laws.
As I have stated previously, this is a money-making endeavor for both ATS and the municipalities that use these red light traffic cameras. You will hear much denial from proponents of their use such as Mayor Seiler who was quoted as saying, “This was never about our budget. This was never about our bottom line. This is about saving lives.”
Yet it costs Fort Lauderdale $4,250 per month for each camera. That remains the same even when the cameras are not operational; however, City Manager, Lee Feldman makes the argument to commissioners that, “We are losing dollars.”
Unlike the city manager, the mayor stands firmly on the point that ATS should not charge the city until the cameras can resume their function. After all, they are not really “doing” anything at the moment.
“They should let us out of that obligation immediately,” he said. “We are using the system they suggested we use. It was ruled illegal by a judge, and it’s their system, not ours. I don’t mind leaving the cameras in place while we go through the legal process, but we should not be paying for them during that process.”
I suppose it is a matter of wait and see as to whether or not ATS will do the honorable thing or continue to bill Ft. Lauderdale for their very existence. With those 32 cameras in place which are currently doing absolutely nothing, if ATS does choose to continue to bill the city, that will result in pure profit of $136,000 per month just to have them there. Hopefully, the anticipated commissioners’ vote on April 7 to amend their contract with ATS will staunch the outflow of tax dollars that seems to be occurring on an arbitrary basis.
Surprisingly, there are some residents that feel that these red light traffic cameras are worth the cost of the cameras and the controversy that surrounds them. Local resident Charlie King recently supported the commissioners in their efforts to keep the cameras in place, even if they are not working.
“You should leave these cameras up, even if it’s for the placebo effect,” King said. “The system saves lives. Everyone knows that.”
Not everyone agrees with King. Many residents and organizations who have conducted studies feel like that may have decreased some types of accidents, but increased other kinds of accidents. This increase is often blamed on the shortened cycle of the yellow light, as well as panic setting in when you are starting to proceed or execute a turn then suddenly have the light change quickly. Stop? Go? Stopping in the intersection? This kind of indecision can be lethal when driving.
If you happen to be one of the thousands of drivers who are effected by these red light traffic citations, give us a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation. We are focused on getting the use of these cameras repealed and have much experience at handling red light camera traffic tickets.