Miami-Dade OKs school zone speed camera plan as lawmakers aim to exclude Chinese parts

Red light camera. Close up. Traffic enforcement camera. Backgrou
The county anticipates issuing more than 358,000 school zone camera-based citations yearly.

Speed limit-enforcing cameras are coming to hundreds of school zones across Miami-Dade through a public-private contract Commissioners approved last week.

The cameras are expected to help crack down on dangerous driving around campuses while also yielding big bucks for the county and the company that will provide, install and operate the equipment.

Meanwhile, four state lawmakers from Miami-Dade are working to tighten strictures on camera-based traffic enforcement through a pair of proposals filed this Session. One aims to ban red light cameras in the Florida Constitution. The other would prohibit the use of traffic camera equipment containing Chinese parts.

On Jan. 17, the Miami-Dade Commission voted 10-3 for a resolution by Vice Chair Anthony Rodriguez approving the deal with RedSpeed, an Illinois-based business that offers “turnkey, automated photo-enforcement” on roadways nationwide.

The contract, which identified 206 school zones for camera enforcement, comes at no cost to the county. Miami-Dade Chief of Public Safety James Reyes estimates that over the contract’s six years, the cameras will generate $144 million for the county and $71 million for RedSpeed.

Police today can issue citations to motorists who drive more than 15 mph in a school zone during posted hours. RedSpeed’s cameras would trigger citation issues to speeders traveling 11 mph over the limit.

Based on the penalty of $100 per violation, of which RedSpeed would get 33%, Miami-Dade anticipates issuing more than 358,000 school zone camera-based citations yearly. A county spokesperson told the Miami Herald that police issued fewer than 3,500 school zone tickets by hand last year.

Lynn Matos, a Realtor from Miami Lakes whose longtime friend lost their son a decade ago in a preventable roadway incident, commended county leaders for “taking proactive steps and putting this program in Miami-Dade.”

“If we can save one child’s life, it is absolutely worth putting measures in place that deter dangerous speeding along school zones,” she said. “I saw the pain the family endured losing their son, and policy initiatives like speed detection in school zones will undoubtedly help with modifying driver behavior.”

Florida lawmakers last year overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing camera enforcement of school zone speed limits statewide. Proponents like Tampa Republican Rep. Traci Koster, the measure’s sponsor, hailed it as a needed fix to a troubling problem of Sunshine State motorists viewing posted speed limits as mere suggestions rather than law.

During a committee discussion of the matter last year, she referenced an “extremely concerning” study conducted outside a pair of Florida schools that found 97% of the motorists who traveled through school speed zones exceeded the locally posted limit by 10 mph or more.

“It’s clear that drivers are purposefully ignoring school zone signs and flashing lights with a disregard for children’s safety,” she said.

Some say the new policy lacks sufficient teeth, pointing to a provision within it disallowing the issuance of violation points that could result in camera-flagged speedsters losing their driver’s licenses.

“If this is supposed to be a deterrent, then you need to give the person points,” Mark Gold, the founder and chief executive of Ticket Clinic in Miami, told the Herald earlier this month. “To me, it’s obviously just a money grab.”

The Florida Police Chiefs Association, which has backed the policy change for years in Tallahassee, disagreed. In a statement, the group’s Executive Director, Jennifer “Cookie” Pitt, said, “We look forward to continuing our partnership with RedSpeed.”

Two related measures are up for consideration this Session.

The first (SJR 1042, HJ 805) would give Florida voters a chance to ban red light cameras across the state for good by putting the matter to a statewide ballot question during the next General Election or an earlier Special Election.

Local and state disputes over red light cameras, which also can be used to enforce right-turn violations, have persisted for years. So has state legislation to ban them.

The measure’s sponsors this year are Miami Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Sweetwater Republican Rep. David Borrero, the latter of whom also voted against the school zone cameras law.

There were 476 red light cameras active in Florida by the end of June last year, down from 495 the year prior, according to a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report. During fiscal 2022, the last year for which information is available, the cameras led to 976,478 traffic light-related citations compared to 50,751 issued by police.

The other measure (SB 1464, HB 1363) would set new reporting standards for data collected from traffic cameras and prohibit the use of camera systems wholly or partially made of parts by Chinese manufacturers.

It follows three measures Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.”

As is the case with the other proposal, the bill’s sponsors are both Miami-Dade Republicans: Sen. Alexis Calatayud of Miami and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera.

Cabrera’s husband, Miami-Dade Commissioner Kevin Marino Cabrera, voted “yes” on the RedSpeed contract. Commissioners René García, Eileen Higgins and Raquel Regalado voted “no.”

Speaking to Florida Politics about her bill this month, Busatta Cabrera said she was unsure if RedSpeed cameras contain Chinese parts.

RedSpeed Vice President Greg Parks said they do not and commended the state lawmakers — both of whom voted for last year’s school zone camera bill — for sponsoring legislation to keep such equipment out of the picture.

“We pride ourselves that our speed detection devices are assembled in the United States and don’t consist of any Chinese parts,” he said. “Because of this, we applaud Sen. Calatayud and Rep. Busatta Cabrera on their legislation. With multiple offices in Florida and an office in Miami-Dade County, we look forward to continuing to work with Florida and contributing to the safety of children.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    January 23, 2024 at 6:53 pm

    Good evening Free State Of Florida,
    I, Earl Pitts American, dont know who needs to hear this.
    Each one of these traffic cameras has Over 5 Pounds of Copper Wire in them.
    Thank you Free State Of Florida,
    Earl Pitts American

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704