Florida Supreme Court to decide on future of red-light cameras

Are red-light cameras causing crashes?

AVENTURA, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments later this month on the use of controversial red-light cameras. And the case could have far-reaching implications statewide.

It's been over a decade since red-light cameras were first put to the test in Florida and they've been generating controversy ever since. 

"I kind of like them because of the amount of people here that run red lights, and I've been hit twice on a bicycle," one man said. 

"I disagree with them, actually," one woman said. "Sometimes I think they cause more problems (and) more accidents."

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes.

Opponents of the devices argue that the presence of the cameras can actually be part of the problem. 

"People are concerned about the fines, so they're slamming on the brakes and that can cause rear-end collisions, and those can cause injuries, as well," Ted Hollander, of The Ticket Clinic, said. "They're just as dangerous as any other kind of accident."

While safety data on the benefits of red-light cameras is mixed, studies have shown that getting cited at intersections with the devices can have a positive effect on driving behavior.

"Once they've been cited once for running a red light where there's a camera, and what it causes over the course of time is a reduction in the number of violations," Edward Guedes, who supports the use of red-light cameras, said.  

Aventura is at the core of this latest court battle, but other cities have had their own legal struggles over red-light cameras. 

A series of lawsuits caused several South Florida cities, including Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, to suspend or end their programs.

"Honestly, as we did a cost-benefit analysis, it was really just too costly. We just didn't feel it had that value as far as public safety for the cost," Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Story said. 

One of the key arguments against the use of red-light cameras is what opponents consider an unlawful delegation of power.  

"We believe the police departments have delegated too much to the camera companies, and these are really police functions that should be done by law enforcement, not by a private vendor," Hollander said. 

Although private companies can categorize red-light camera violations, proponents say that, ultimately, law enforcement decides whether a violation exists.

"Once the events are categorized, it is still police officers, authorized by state statute to give citations, to look at the evidence and apply state law," Guedes said. 

The state Supreme Court's ruling in the upcoming case will likely affect the outcome of more than 60 lawsuits filed by traffic attorneys. An estimated $200 million in challenged fines hangs in the balance. 


About the Author:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.