The debate over red light cameras is heating up in Florida. The big question senators are faced with: Do the cameras keep you safe, or swindle you out of money?
Just mention red light cameras in Tampa, and you’ll start a feisty dispute.
“Fantastic! Get rid of those,” Michele Elliot exclaimed.
“Let’s keep them,” Julene Jarosz said in disagreement.
The cameras are being hotly debated across the state. Meanwhile, Tampa ranked in an extra $2 million in 2016 from red light runner fines.
It’s money coming out people’s pockets, including Tampa resident Tracy Pupello. “I opened up the letter stating I owed money and said ‘what!? you’ve gotta be kidding me”.” Pupello, who’s never even had a speeding ticket, was shocked. “I kinda went, ‘what?’ She was hit with a more than $700 fine for two red light tickets that were past due. She says she hadn’t received the citations in the mail. “So now I owe $700 and some odd dollars. It’s upsetting, but I’m not going to go to court to dispute this so I guess I’ll just pay it.”
Pupello isn’t alone, 1.2 million red light runner tickets were issued in Florida in 2016, and 65,000 people were cited in Tampa alone.
Julene Jarosz hopes the red light cameras are here to stay. As an ER nurse that’s treated red light runners, she knows the price people pay for a split-second decision. “I’ve seen way too many car accident victims and this will create more,” she explained.
But do the cameras actually keep you safe? A recent FDOT study found crashes actually went up 10 percent at intersections that added cameras.
Michele Elliott, who dislikes the red light cameras explained, “You’re so aware of the cameras that you’re not looking at the traffic. You’re wondering how can I get through without getting a ticket.”
Five cities in Pinellas County, including St. Pete, got rid of them.
Now Florida senators have the ultimate decision: If the rest of the state should follow their lead.
House leaders already said yes to getting rid of the cameras.
If the bill goes though, local cities like Tampa will have until 2020 to turn the red light cameras off.