Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling
NAPLES — Whether their commutes are slowed by poorly-timed traffic lights or they’re just too lazy to get out of bed in the morning, David Heywood-Jones does not have sympathy for hurried red-light runners.
“I personally think that a red-light runner, when he gets caught, should probably have his license taken away for life,” the 74-year-old traveling salesman and East Naples resident said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s premeditated murder.”
If that sounds rash, consider that in the mid-1990s Heywood-Jones’s sister and niece were killed in California by a man who sped through a red light at about 50 mph, he said. His family was devastated.
“I’m a man, so I’m not supposed to be quite as devastated,” Heywood-Jones said. “It’s something I don’t think about it very often anymore. When I see a red-light runner it pops into my mind, and I try to push it back.”
It’s because of his sister’s and niece’s deaths that Heywood-Jones supports the use of red-light running cameras on Collier County roads.
Sometime this week, just shy of a year since they were approved by the Collier County Commission, the first red-light running cameras will be flipped on at the intersection of Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads. The cameras have been installed in the eastbound and westbound lanes of Pine Ridge Road, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Karie Partington said.
Sheriff’s Office staff is finishing training on the cameras in the coming days.
For a few weeks, violators will be issued warnings to give them time to get used to the cameras, Partington said.
After that, the agency will issue $125 citations for violating a county ordinance. Florida law does not allow the use of red-light cameras for enforcing traffic violations, and the cameras are not permitted on state highways.
“The goal is not for anybody to get a citation,” Partington said. “The goal is to get people to stop for the red light. We want to give them as much information as we can.”
On Thursday the Sheriff’s Office began a two-week campaign called “Red Means Stop In Any Language” to increase red-light safety awareness. The agency has posted informational signs about red-light safety at several major intersections in Collier County.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 1,000 people are killed and more than 180,000 motorists are injured due to red-light runners every year. These motor vehicle crashes cost $14 billion per year.
In 2007 there were 132 crashes related to red-light running in Collier County, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
Collier commissioners voted 3-2 on April 22, 2008, to install the unmanned cameras, which photograph the license plates of red-light runners and make a digital video of the infraction.
The cameras have proven to be controversial nationwide, with critics claiming they are Orwellian tools that actually increase the overall number of accidents because drivers stop abruptly to avoid fines. Supporters say the cameras have a proven track record of reducing red-light running offenses and more-serious T-bone crashes.
There will be no up-front cost for the cameras, which have been provided by the Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions, said Collier transportation department spokeswoman Connie Deane.
“It’s a turnkey agreement with ATS,” Deane wrote in an e-mail. “They provide the equipment, maintenance and on-going field and back-office operations and recoup their investment from a portion of the citations.”
Commissioner Jim Coletta initially voted against the cameras because he didn’t believe he had enough information about them at the time, but has since changed his opposition.
“Believe me, I will be monitoring it,” Coletta said. “It’s a very controversial subject, but to do nothing would be a mistake.”
Harry Campbell, the chief traffic engineer for the Lee County Department of Transportation, said that statistics show red-light running does not lead to a large number of crashes in Lee County. However, there have been talks of installing test cameras at the intersection of Colonial Boulevard and Summerlin Road for review.
“The camera doesn’t lie,” Campbell said. “It catches the violator dead to right.”
Many residents are in favor of the cameras.
“I don’t like to do the big brother intrusion, but something needs to be done with red light runners,” Gina McCabe said Thursday morning at Pine Ridge Crossing, near the intersection of Airport-Pulling and Pine Ridge roads where the first cameras have been installed.
McCabe, of North Naples, said she almost got into a vehicle accident on Thursday because of a red light runner at Pine Ridge Road and Napa Boulevard, where many motorists run the red light to turn left onto Napa Boulevard.
Since it’s not possible for police officers to be at every corner, McCabe, 40, said she supports having cameras at intersections.
Bob Arkes, a seasonal Naples resident from Ohio, also supports red-light cameras.
“It’s wonderful,” Arkes, 80, said. “There’s a crying need for some means of preventing people (from running) red lights.”
He would like to see a running record of red-light violator tickets. Arkes added that a camera at Forest Lakes Boulevard and Pine Ridge Road is needed.
“We are strong advocates for anything that they can do to stop red light runners,” he said.
Partington said the Sheriff’s Office looked at the number of crashes from red-light running and red-light running offenses at various intersections to determine where to place the first cameras. She said a few more will be put up this year, though the specific number of cameras and the exact intersections have not been determined yet.
A trained deputy will review each infraction before a citation is issued, Partington said.
People can contest the citations with the Collier County Code Enforcement special magistrate.
“This is not about putting up cameras and citing people,” Partington said. “Our overall goal is to get people to stop when the light is red.”