Florida has been saddled with red light cameras (RLCs) since 2010. Since 2011, the Liberty First Network (LFN) has been at the Legislature opposing them. Our opposition is based upon the false promise of safety used to sell them to elected officials and the public as well as the law being contrary to American principles of justice such as innocent until proved guilty.
Under this law, the driver is not ticketed- the owner is- and then assumes the role of police officer to prove who violated the law. The law also opens up the possibility of an innocent owner being ticketed (wrong vehicle or wrong license plate) and then having to fight an unjust ticket. This situation is unique to cameras since police officers ticket drivers directly, and innocent owners have been ticketed several times in Florida.
LFN has been the only consistent voice opposing RLCs in Tallahassee. We’ve presented factual research that documented the lack of safety of the cameras. Our work disproved safety so often that camera supporters changed their tune from one of safety to one of “changed driver behavior”, using the theory that once drivers knew a camera was present, they’d drive more carefully. We’ve documented a different type of change- one of slamming on brakes to avoid getting a ticket no law enforcement officer would write. The sudden braking resulted in a huge increase in rear-end crashes. This lack of positive behavior has also been documented in the state’s 2016 annual survey of local governments using RLCs. Repeat offender violations have nearly tripled since 2015, and even though there are 108 fewer cameras than in 2015, the total number of tickets increased from 963,039 to over 1.2 million- a 27.5% increase in just one year.
LFN has held the position that the proof of effectiveness of the cameras lies in crash data. LFN was the only group to make use of state crash data in order to analyze red light violation (RLV) crashes in Florida. The state’s annual voluntary survey report from 2012 to 2015 never evaluated this type of crash. The state’s 2016 report is the first time this data has been reported- and to no surprise, out of over 5,000 crashes reported, there was a net change of only 5 RLV crashes. If the cameras worked as promised/sold, there would be a huge decrease in this type of crash. Meanwhile, crashes and injuries across the board went up- with serious injury crashes increasing over 26% and fatal crashes increasing 100%. The latter truly disproves the justification for the cameras of “If they save one life, then they are worth it.” Something else revealed for the first time in 2016 is the severe decrease in RLV tickets written by our law enforcement officers. These have decreased from over 81,000 in 2011 to around 50,000 in 2016. What this means is that red light enforcement has been turned over to cameras. Unlike a camera, our law enforcement officers can take immediate action to remove dangerous drivers such as DUIs from our roads. In our opinion, officer enforcement is the proper way to enforce traffic laws for a number of reasons.
LFN is the only organization to utilize “the red light camera guy”, Paul Henry. Paul spent 25 years in Florida law enforcement and the above nickname originated with legislative staff due to his numerous appearances in committee opposing cameras. Paul’s extensive research and testimony stopped camera programs in Collier County in 2012 and the City of Tallahassee in 2015.
The fact is RLCs are big money. They have pulled in millions into state coffers. It’s nearly free money for the state, as the vendor pays to install them, and local cities and counties pay to oversee them- even to the point of losing money. The state gets 52.5% of fine money for very little outlay. This money along with a flood of government and quasi-government lobbyists (lobbyists paid directly or indirectly by local governments) have helped block repeal since 2011.
The 2017 legislative session represents the first true chance for repeal of this bad law. In the past, the House has passed repeal bills only to see them blocked in the Senate due to leadership. This session, both chambers have leaders that are open to repeal. This year we can realize the culmination of over 6 years of effort.
3 things YOU can do to help
1. Make Sure your legislators hear from you about this issue. If they do not, they assume you’re OK with keeping the cameras. CLICK HERE to find your State House Representative and CLICK HERE to find your State Senator and let them know where you stand.
2. We need your support On the issue of cameras, we’re grossly outspent and outnumbered by government and quasi-government lobbyists, many of whom are there on our tax dollars. We found that at the beginning of 2017, there were 3 pro-camera lobbyists for every opponent. This ratio will only get worse as more cities and counties pay lobbyists to oppose repeal of the cameras. Help us make sure that your voice is represented in Tallahassee this year.
3. CLICK HERE to sign the LFN online petition and you will receive action alerts on this issue.