A key Senate panel narrowly passed a proposal to effectively end the use of red light cameras around the state of Florida on Thursday.
The Senate Transportation Committee passed the bill by a 4-3 party-line vote.
Bill sponsor St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes, who also chairs the panel, said the bill simply reflects the public policy reality that infraction detectors are not making intersections safer.
“The Department of Highway Safety will not testify that there is a safety benefit,” said Brandes. “Red light cameras don’t increase safety, they are essentially a revenue-generation tool, and installing them at intersections in facts makes them more dangerous.”
Brandes cited an annual state report that said in most years since red light cameras came into use in 2011, traffic crashes went up at intersections monitored by the detectors.
Several municipalities still favor their use, however – or at least their ability to implement it, which would be preempted by Brandes’ bill, SB 168.
“Tortured numbers will confess to anything,” said Scott Dudley, legislative director for the Florida League of Cities. Dudley said the increase in crashes shown by Brandes’ data is likely related to a general increase in crashes, related to more miles driven by Floridians and and higher rates of distracted driving.
Democrats Sen. Oscar Braynon and Geraldine Thompson both expressed concern over local control, saying the bill’s preemption clause goes too far.
Republican Sens. Greg Evers, Wilton Simpson, and Denise Grimsley joined Brandes in supporting the bill. Braynon, Thompson, and panel Vice Chair Sen. Dwight Bullard voted ‘No.’
“Red light cameras don’t offer us the human side of policing, which I believe is the most important aspect,” said Brandes. “It’s the cold, calculated nature of this that I find most objectionable.”
The bill next moves on to the budget panel on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development before moving to full Appropriations. A House companion measure by Rep. Frank Artiles passed its policy committee and now sits in Appropriations.