10/9/2012Florida: Audit Fails to Document Safety Improvement from Traffic Cameras
Tallahassee, Florida city auditor can point to no evidence of collision reductions in following the installation of red light cameras.
There is no evidence that the red light camera program in Tallahassee, Florida has done anything to reduce the number of collisions in the city, according to Tallahassee City Auditor Sam M. McCall. McCall's office released a report on the program late last month based upon a review of the available evidence for the program that became operational August 1, 2010. The for-profit vendor Affiliated Computer Services (now Xerox) currently issues tickets at seven automated ticketing locations.
"We did not make any conclusions relating to the red light camera's impact on accidents and how those accidents impact public safety," McCall wrote. "We were not able to satisfy ourselves as to the completeness of the information available for three areas."
The auditor found Tallahassee Police and the Leon County Sheriff's Office failed to provide accident data in a format that could be used for comparison purposes. He also found the city's public works department only tracked traffic volume information on an "as needed" basis. The lack of volume data makes it far more difficult to have an accurate measurement of the safety impact of cameras. The accident reports available also lacked sufficient data regarding the severity of collisions.
"Absent reliable information relating to accidents, traffic volume, and injury severity, we could not draw a conclusion as to the degree that red light cameras have impacted public safety in Tallahassee," McCall wrote.
The auditor had no difficulty in assessing the financial performance of the camera. Photo tickets cost $158 each, which is divvied up with $83 going to the state, and $75 to the city. If ACS claims the ticket has gone unpaid for 30 days, the cost goes up to $271, with the court system pocketing most of the extra cash. ACS so far has walked away with $1.2 million from the deal -- 27 percent of the total -- out of the city's $2 million share. After ACS takes its cut, Tallahassee kept 17.2 percent of the proceeds. Despite the substantial revenue generated, the city budget anticipated $900,000 more in profit than was actually delivered. The auditor offered suggestions for increasing the take.
Under state law, no ticket may be issued for turning right on red "in a careful and prudent manner." The auditor was upset that the city's police department reviewers were not aggressive in issuing tickets, foregoing as much as $267,375 in profit by giving vehicle owners the benefit of any doubt on turning tickets. The auditor also pointed out that individuals who register their vehicles to a business can safely toss their citations in the trash because there is no enforcement mechanism available to the city.
"In instances where the vehicle is owned by a business (or some other entity) there is not a driver's license to suspend nor is there an alternative mechanism in place to preclude the business from ignoring the fine and continue to renew the vehicle's license plates," McCall wrote.
A copy of the audit report is available in a 1.7mb PDF file at the source link below.