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Crashes drop at Tampa intersections with red-light cameras

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:16 AM
TAMPA -

City officials hoped catching red light runners on camera ultimately would reduce crashes.

Traffic crash statistics released Thursday show that is happening.

Reported crashes fell from 163 to 111 at the more than one dozen Tampa intersections where police began fining motorists caught on video running through red lights in the past year.

"It is accomplishing exactly what we set out to accomplish," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. These intersections are safer; people are changing their behavior. Our families and our neighbors and our kids are less at a risk of people running red lights."

"I think the statistics are showing this program works, and that it works as a safety measure," said Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen.

The camera concept has raised objections in Florida and beyond. Some people maintain the cameras are a government intrusion into people's lives, or that they result in ticketing the car's owner — who might not be the driver, or that they cause crashes when motorists slam on brakes to avoid a violation.

Details about the nature of the 2011 and 2012 collisions were not immediately available. But only one deadly accident occurred at a "red-light camera" intersection in the past two years, police said.

It happened at 6:24 a.m. on Oct. 16 at Hillsborough Avenue and 40th Street when a pedestrian wearing dark clothing walked into the roadway – not at the crosswalk – and into the path of a Ford Expedition, said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

Red-light camera video was used to confirm and support the driver's version of what happened, Davis said.

The number of violations issued at intersections with the cameras also has dipped – an indication that driver behavior is changing, Buckhorn said.

In November 2011, police issued 8,174 violations. In November 2012, they issued 4,729 violations.

"It tells me people are cognizant and paying attention and changing behavior, which is exactly what we set out to do a year ago," Buckhorn said.

Tampa's crash data was consistent with what many other law enforcement agencies in Florida have seen with red-light cameras.

The state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles this week released results of its survey of 73 agencies about red-light camera use from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012.

Among those agencies, 43 percent noticed a drop in side-impact crashes at intersections with the cameras, 41 percent noted a drop in rear-end crashes and 56 percent had a total reduction in crashes.

Beginning Nov. 1, 2011, Tampa began issuing $158 violations to the owners of vehicles caught on camera rolling throughred lights.

Tampa pockets $75 of every fine collected, and the city provides $10 of that to the camera vendor. The money paid to Tampa goes into the city's general fund.

Overall, the cameras produced $7.6 million in revenue in the first year of generating tickets for Tampa's drivers. By the time the money was doled out and the state, the camera vendor and others got their cut, the city made $2.6 million.

Tampa had projected $2 million a year in revenue from infractions detected by the cameras.

For those who say cameras were placed at intersections simply as a money generator, Cohen said: "In fact, it would seem to me that the city is going make less money going forward as the number of violators go down as people change their driving habits."


jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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