Every time I try to prove I love you,
1,2,3, Red Light won’t stop me.
When I know I’m right don’t stop me.
1,2,3, Red Light.
— “1910 Fruitgum Co”
By Randall Grantham
First, a shameless plug for Wood Fired Pizza Wine Bar located at 2822 E. Bearss Ave. just west of Bruce B. Downs. They serve the simplest, yet most elegant and delicious pizza to be found at a commercial pizzeria. Wine and beer is available, or you may bring your own favorite bottle for a small corking fee.
Second, why I mention them at all: Peter, the owner and master-pizza artist at said restaurant, formerly worked for a company that sells, installs and monitors those remote control red light cameras that have been all over the news lately. We were chatting not too long ago and he told me how these companies weasel their way into our communities.
One reason I say “weasel” is that there is substantial authority, including an opinion by then-Attorney General Charlie Crist, that state law pre-empts the various cities and counties from passing laws that conflict with State Traffic Laws, such as the one that regulates red light enforcement and these cameras fall into that category.
Another reason I say “weasel” is because of the way they weasel their way in. According to Peter, these companies come in with a “proposition.” A deal you can’t refuse, so to speak. They offer to install these cameras at various intersections where there is a known propensity for drivers to slide through the light, making a right turn, usually. There is no cost at all to the city or county and the cameras are monitored by the company, again, at no cost to the city and the company cites to “studies” showing how much safer the roads are after installation of the cameras in other communities.
After a few months, the company comes back to the city and “shows them the money”. They present their results showing “x” number of people ran this light and if you had a hundred dollars for each one of them, you’d be rich. We will gladly continue to operate these lights on your behalf, says the company, and we’ll just take a small piece of the action, say 50%. Even after our “taste,” that still leaves you with a million dollars that you otherwise wouldn’t have, they explain.
Nobody can resist the sound of all that money. First, it was Temple Terrace. And I didn’t care because I don’t live in, or go through, Temple Terrace very often. But then it was Hillsborough County and I have been known to frequent that area. Now the City of Tampa is jumping on the bandwagon. So now I care (also because one of my cars got cited for slipping past the light in TT)
But who, in their right mind could turn down an offer like that? Or should I say who should turn down that offer? Our local governments, that’s who. First of all, it looks to be an illegal deal. As I said, the Attorney General of the State has issued an opinion saying so. Specifically Crist, as AG, wrote, “legislative changes are necessary before local governments may issue traffic citations and penalize drivers who fail to obey red light indications on traffic signal devices.”
Based on current law and this legal opinion, there is currently a class-action lawsuit pending against Temple Terrace and the red light camera company. I would think other government entities would at least wait to see how that turns out before buying a lawsuit and the expenses that come along with that.
And then there are the studies these guys cite to support their public safety claims. They are suspect at best. There have actually been studies showing an increase in accidents as a result of camera enforcement of red light laws. And, as a result, one major study says that we can expect insurance rates to go up if these cameras continue to proliferate.
I have no doubt that people flying straight on through a red light is dangerous and causes many accidents. But most of these tickets, like the one issued to my car, are for failing to come to a full and complete stop before making an otherwise legal and safe right turn on red.
“Show me the money” should not be the official government policy justifying their actions.
For more information on the (alleged) dangers of EMF, go to www.prevention.com/emf.
Randall C. Grantham is a lifelong resident of Lutz who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway. He can be reached at . Copyright 2009 RCG