City Green Lights Cameras

opinion
The City has given the go ahead to seek proposals to add red light cameras. according to a report from Rick Rousos at the Ledger.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. The City and the Ledger have been pushing for red light cameras for over a year. It took this long only because City Commissioners waited for the Florida Legislature to pass a state law. Evidently the House and Senate were busy with other business.

Since a company hasn’t been chosen to install the cameras, there are no details how the Lakeland cameras will work. Except for this important point: “City officials say Lakeland police and not a private company will do the deciding when it comes to mailing infractions to drivers who run a red light.” It is more common for the company to use out-of-town police to check and mail the infractions. Kudos to the City for going that route. I wonder how much the City Commissioners will add to the LPD budget for the new LPD position?

For new readers, Lakeland Local had a series of articles on red light cameras in March 2007. You might want to check how red light cameras work, why Lakeland wants cameras, and The Dilemma Zone?. If you read just one, read The Dilemma Zone.

“Unavoidable and intentional” drivers were best helped by increasing the yellow light duration an extra .5 to 1.5 seconds. These drivers account for the majority of “red light violations” and increasing yellow duration reduced violations about 50 per-cent. The study concluded drivers did adapt to the longer yellow, but that didn’t undo the benefit of the increase. — The Dilemma Zone

When the city gets proposals for the contracts, they should make sure Lakeland avoids problems experienced in some other cities:

• Make sure the City does not have to pay for installing the cameras. Companies do this for a piece of the fines.

• If a camera fails to replay it’s cost, make sure the City isn’t responsible for the difference.

• If a camera is placed at an intersection with too few red light violations, make sure the City isn’t responsible for the cost to move the camera.

• At each red light camera intersection make sure the amber light is properly set for that intersection and traffic speed. Then add .5 second of yellow. Do not have Lakeland traffic engineers or red light camera operators shorten the amber lights at RLC intersections.

• Install cameras that show enough of the intersection and infraction so that LPD officers can see if a car ran the light due to two rare reasons and one more common (1) moving out the way of emergency vehicles, (2) fear of an accident from behind, and more commonly (3) the vehicle was in the intersection before the light turned red.

• Make sure Lakeland Traffic Operations checks and properly sets all signs and lights. Also have LTO inspect the placement of all cameras.

• There will also be an outcry from some drivers that the cameras violate their privacy. That can be reduced by proper placement of the cameras. Because the cameras don’t take a picture of the driver, most fines fall to the owner of the car.

Remember always, the goal is to reduce red light violations, not to make cash for the city. Don’t succumb to temptation and reduce amber lights, or hide the placement of the cameras.

If Lakeland follows the experience of other cities, there will a reduction of intersection accidents caused by red light runners. That is offset by an increase in the number of rear-end collisions caused when a driver follows too close to a driver who stops at an amber light. Proponents of red light cameras say they don’t mind the offset since rear end collisions are less life threatening. There will also be an increase in red light violations in intersections near the cameras as some drivers change their habits to avoid the cameras.

Finally, red light cameras designed to catch avoidable violations can benefit Lakeland drivers. It’s up to the citizens to watch the lights as closely as the cameras will watch them. With any luck, in a couple of years the City will remove the cameras because there are too few red light violations.

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