Bryan Nelson’s about-face on red-light cameras – Florida Politics

Bryan Nelson’s about-face on red-light cameras

Former Republican Rep. Bryan Nelson has shifted positions on red-light cameras now that he’s running for Apopka mayor, but it’s starting to look like the change wasn’t so much an evolution as it was a total 180.

Nelson was an outspoken champion of red-light cameras when he was in the Legislature, often promoting the controversial devices for improving the “safety” of Florida roads in the face of criticism labeling them as money grabs for local governments.

“Folks that’s safety,” Nelson said in 2010. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

While there wasn’t much research on whether red-light cameras tangibly improved road safety back then, a 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a heaping helping of vindication for Nelson and the other lawmakers who cast votes in favor of the devices.

That study found cities with the cameras had a 21 percent lower rate of red-light running fatalities than cities without the cameras.

Fast forward to 2018 and Nelson, the one-time staunch backer of red-light cameras, is putting out ads promising to take down every camera in the city if he gets elected.

He makes a couple points. Apopka is a bit out of control when it comes to red-light cameras. From 2012 through 2013 Apopka raked in over $3.6 million from red-light cameras – $200,000 more than the much larger City of Orlando.

And boy does it sting when that $158 ticket shows up in the mail. Maybe that explains why Nelson changed his mind.

So, one red-light camera enough to flip Bryan Nelson’s mind on cameras. A single $158 dollar ticket made him backflip on years of saying red-light cameras were the price to pay for road safety.

There’s also that study — the same one that vindicated Nelson’s 2010 “safety” claim — which shows cities that have cameras but choose to remove them see their red-light running fatalities spike by a third. Is $158 worth more to him than Apopka lives?

Nelson is running against incumbent Mayor Joe Kilsheimer.

The election is March 13.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  1. Why has Bryan Nelson not resigned his position as county commissioner? Doesn’t he have to resign one position to run for this one?

  2. The 2010 law authorizing red light cameras was passed mostly to fund the state budget. The state gets $83 of each $158 ticket (52.5%) without paying a penny of the typical high camera costs of $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera. Then the for-profit camera companies who have spent a lot of money in campaign contributions and lobbying expenses get paid, typically another 20% to 35% of the total revenue. The bill to authorize the cameras was pushed through the legislature by then-Representative Ron Reagan. After he left the legislature, he worked with the National Coalition for Safer Roads. That sounds like a very noble group, until you find out it is a front group heavily supported by ATS, the largest for-profit camera company. Then understand the IIHS supports red light cameras because in some states their member insurance companies can surcharge the premiums of safe drivers caught with split second violations of less than one second into the red caused by yellow intervals deliberately left or set too short for the actual conditions. Red light cameras were never about safety, only money counts.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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