The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office keeps statistics on red-light runners at six intersections in the Tampa Bay area.
Guess which area intersection ranks near the top of the list?
More than 22 percent of the nearly 34,000 red-light violations recorded at the six Tampa Bay intersections outfitted with red-light cameras occurred in the Carrollwood area, according to a review of statistics provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The review shows that on average, 17 motorists run red lights every day at the intersection of Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway, ranking it the second most dangerous crossroads for red-light runners at intersections outfitted with cameras. The cameras at the Waters and Dale Mabry intersection captured 7,625 instances of drivers ignoring lights between Jan. 1 2010 and Feb. 28 2011, according to the sheriff’s office report.
“We’ve even had the same people cited multiple times,” said Cpl. Troy Morgan, who oversees the sheriff’s office’s red-light camera program. I talked to one driver, and she just didn’t understand it. I eventually had to advise her to take another route.”
In all, the red-light cameras captured 33,966 red-light violations at the six Hillsborough intersections:
· Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway: 7,625
· Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue: 9,070
· Brandon Town Center and Brandon Boulevard: 7,589
· Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue: 2,830
· Waters Avenue and Anderson Road: 6,110
· Sligh Avenue and Habana: 742
Motorists might avoid getting nabbed on the scene after running a red light, but the law makes sure they pay up with a $158 fine.
Of that, $75 goes to the county or city where the violation occurred, with the remainder going to the state. The ticket does not mean added points on your license, and it’s possible to transfer liability on a ticket if you can prove someone else was driving your car.
The company that installed the cameras — American Traffic Solutions, in Hillsborough County — is paid $4,750 per month, per camera. The company maintains 10 cameras at the six intersections.
Tampa, St. Petersburg and Oldsmar recently voted to install red-light cameras. Temple Terrace already has the cameras in place.
Cpl. Frank Harned oversees traffic issues in District 1, which covers the Carrollwood area. He’s also one of five supervisors who review red light violations.
He has several recommendations for drivers looking to avoid a hefty ticket: be alert, drive defensively and don’t have a lot of distractions in your car.
“Everyone seems to be a in a hurry and everyone thinks they can shorten their driving time by going through the red lights but if you run one light you are going to hit another,” Harned said. “When you see that many violations at one intersection, it is crazy.”
Many times drivers see an amber light and speed up, Harned said.
“But the amber lights at most intersections are timed for 4.3 seconds, and that means some drivers end up going through an intersection at a much higher speed than then should," he said.
Running red lights, and many crashes, come down to distractions, Harned said.
A review of crashes along Fletcher Avenue in 2010 by Harned’s office showed 500 crashes, and many of those were rear-end collisions or sideswipes.
“That tells me that many of the drivers were distracted and not paying attention to traffic," he said. "I personally look about three cars ahead when driving, and when I see their brake lights come on, I know it’s time to slow down.”
Harned also recommends when you stop behind a vehicle, make sure that you are able to see that vehicle’s tires.
“If you can’t," he said, "you are too close.”
Morgan said he has no doubt the cameras make drivers more vigilant and help to save lives.
“Obviously, the cameras are not making the situation worse,” said Morgan, who points to statistics that show the number of crashes at the six monitored intersections has fallen from 395 in 2008 to 270 in 2010.
The number of accidents with injuries at the same intersections has been cut in half over the same time, he said.
“The cameras are doing what they were intended to do, and that is to make people more aware so they modify their behavior,” he said. "The cameras also do something law enforcement cannot do, and that is provide 24-hour, 365-day-a-year coverage.”
Although Florida legislators last year passed a law permitting the use of red-light cameras, a vote this year put their use in jeopardy.
The May 2 vote sent the repeal bill (HB 4087) to the Florida Senate, where it stalled in committee.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Richard Corcoran, a New Port Richey Republican, believes the law is merely a gravy train for the companies who provide the cameras. Corcoran has not yet decided if he will reintroduce the legislation.
“We are going to look at all our options and decide later down the line,” said Jared Ochs, Corcoran’s legislative assistant.
The state legislature reconvenes in January 2012. Meanwhile, red light camera system supporters like Morgan are hopeful that the system will be able to continue.
“You can go the sheriff’s office website and watch the videos of drivers running red lights and judge for yourself," he said. "I think any reasonable person would see the need for the cameras after watching these videos.”
Check out a Patch story on red light cameras in Brandon here.