CRESTVIEW — If you run a red light in Crestview, you may get a ticket in the mail.
The City Council voted March 12 to allow the city to employ red light cameras at some intersections. The measure passed on the second reading by a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Joe Blocker and Council President J.B. Whitten voting against the ordinance.
Police Chief Tony Taylor calls the program an “all-around approach” to Crestview.
“The red light program is a holistic approach to the traffic problem,” Taylor said. “When people know there’s red light (cameras) up, they drive more carefully.”
Whitten issued a lengthy dissent, citing a number of issues, including a potential increase in rear-end collisions, a low percentage of accidents caused by motorists running red lights and other red light camera programs facing legal action.
The Florida State Supreme Court heard arguments in February over the legality of state laws allowing municipalities to deploy red light cameras. That case involved a suit brought by Luis Jimenez, who alleges the city of Aventura, a Miami suburb, delegated too much responsibility to monitor the cameras to a private company that contracted with the city’s police department. The court has yet to rule on the case.
A bill to repeal provisions allowing for the use of red light cameras in the state of Florida was approved in the Florida State House of Representatives by a vote of 83-18 in January. The bill was then sent to the Senate, where it was withdrawn from consideration prior to the end of the legislative session on March 11.
Whitten suggested as an alternative increasing the length of time for yellow lights to allow drivers more time to stop before a traffic light turns red.
Councilman Doug Faircloth, who voted to approve the measure, disagreed.
“I’m wondering if most drivers know what a yellow light means,” Faircloth said. “Most people think it means nail it and beat it. What it actually means is slow down and take caution. Prepare to stop.”
Councilman Blocker said he was weighing pros and cons, and asked if the program could be run for a trial period, but his question came after the motion to vote on the ordinance had been made.
Three members of the public took the opportunity to speak out against the proposal in the public hearing portion of the meeting.
“I don’t think it’s fair that the lowest bidder is going to have the right to send me a ticket, and I cannot confront my accuser,” Michael Lango said. “That red light camera, I don’t trust them.”
Lango and the other members of the public who commented all questioned where the money would go, alleging the majority of the ticket revenue would go to enrich the companies contracted to run the red light cameras.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about the red light program. There’s a lot of fears out there,” Taylor said. “It’s a public safety program. It’s not a money-making program. We’re not in it to make money. We’re in it to save lives.”