12/13/2012Florida County Chooses Longer Yellow Over Red Light Cameras
Collier County, Florida sides with longer yellow times and cancels red light camera program.
Commissioners in Collier County, Florida voted 3-2 on Wednesday to pull the plug on red light cameras. The devices have stirred controversy and class action lawsuits since ticketing began at ten county intersections on April 30, 2009. Though opinion on the board of commissioners was divided on the wisdom of continuing the program, city officials were unanimous in demanding an increase in the duration of the yellow lights at intersections.
"We basically need to look at alternatives to red light cameras to improve safety for the benefit of the public," board chairman Georgia A. Hiller said. "There is no evidence that supports the need to keep these red light cameras."
Commissioner Donna Fiala strongly supported the use of automated ticketing machines because she insisted, they caused an improvement in safety throughout the city. She also endorsed the alternatives.
"I agree with you about the re-timing of the lights," Fiala said. "I think it's a good idea. If they're timed properly maybe people won't be running red lights."
Two years ago, Collier County shortened the duration of the yellow light at intersections with 45 MPH speed limits from 4.5 seconds to 4.3 seconds. Though 0.20 second represents the time it takes to blink an eye, the vast majority of all citable violations happen within the first 0.25 seconds a light turns red (view violation chart). The commissioners voted to direct city staff to produce a report by the first board meeting in February documenting efforts to improve safety with longer yellows. By March 1, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) will be forced to begin pulling down its red light cameras.
"I'm very anxious to get rid of this onerous program," Commissioner Tim Nance said. "It's been harmful to our tourist industry, I don't think it's been helpful from a safety aspect."
In February, the county agreed to pay ATS $522,454 to settle a contract dispute. For eighteen months, the county clerk withheld payment to the Arizona-based firm over a concern about whether the citations being issued were illegal. Along with the settlement, the previous board inked a ten-year contract with ATS, a move that sparked public opposition.
"American Traffic Solutions, in their quest for revenue, has caused legal problems for this county, and there are more to come," Vinny Angiolillo, a candidate for sheriff, warned at the February board meeting. "American Traffic Solutions has raped this community of money from our hard-working citizens with no significant reduction of traffic accidents at intersections where the cameras are active."
Hiller, a long-time opponent of red light cameras on constitutional grounds, convinced a majority of her colleagues to exercise the red light camera contract's cancellation clause, sending notice to ATS that the cameras were no longer welcome.