More red-light cameras coming to Collier
Find out where and when to expect ...
COLLIER COUNTY — The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is placing a “special focus” on red light runners this week and next, part of a longer campaign that will eventually focus on other types of traffic violations.
Some area residents voiced support for the measure Monday, and a few wanted more action to be taken against bad drivers.
“It’s incredulous,” said Naples resident Steve Preston, “all the people running obvious red lights.”
Preston, who said he was in his 50s, had just driven through the busy intersection at Golden Gate Parkway and U.S. 41 and was headed into Books-a-Million when he stopped to express support for the campaign.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of them doing it, but they should have been doing it years before,” Preston said.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten said the officers will be concentrating on about 15 to 20 intersections, the ones where crash data has indicated a problem with red light running. Are they revealing what intersections?
“No,” Batten said, “because we just don’t want drivers to be thinking about red light safety at those particular intersections. We want them to be thinking about it at all intersections.”
Officers are not ticketing everybody they see running a red light during the campaign. Batten said some may just be reminded of the law. It all depends on the severity of the infraction.
Lt. Harold Minch, head of the Sheriff’s Office traffic unit, said the hope is that drivers will become more aware of the law and help the Sheriff’s Office enforce it, thereby improving safety of the road. He said the “special focus” is not meant to suggest that officers aren’t always looking for bad drivers.
“Hopefully, our officers are always watching. Unfortunately, patrol officers have very little down time and some things take precedent,” Minch said, referring to calls officers receive and must respond to.
“What we are doing now, we are actually chipping some time out of everyone’s day and having them watch those red lights at those intersections.”
Minch said the officers will begin focusing on a different type of traffic violation after this campaign ends, but noted the particular importance of red light running.
“We see quite a few crashes where people are pulling out into intersections and getting hit. A red light means stop every time, and all around the world it’s no different,” Minch said.
“If you have time, you stop. If you don’t have time, you proceed through. You have to be watching and that’s why you don’t play with the kids or the dog, eat or talk on the cell phone. That’s the issue here, people are doing other things.”
Minch added that the Sheriff’s Office will not focus on the “millisecond close” red light runners, but the ones who are purposefully running the red.
Naples resident Mary Yon said it shouldn’t be too hard to find the violators. She was visiting the same Books-A-Million on Monday that Preston was.
“We have been in situations where we almost were in accidents,” Yon said, referring to her family. “People run them all the time and I think it’s a chronic problem here.”
Estero resident Frank Carroll, 70, felt similarly to Yon, but, like Preston, believed the campaign is not enough.
“I think they should do more. They ought to do a survey on the way they license people,” Carroll said. “When you come to Florida, you should have to take a driving test, because you have young people speeding their brains off, while the old person is going to turn from the wrong lane.”
Both Carroll and Preston called for enhanced driver’s education programs. Preston wondered how he might get involved.
“I almost wish there was something I can do as a lay person,” Preston said.
If a member of the public spots a driver that is endangering the lives of others by violating traffic laws, it is considered an emergency and can be reported by dialing 911.
Otherwise, the Sheriff’s Office communication center can take the call at (239) 793-9300. In Lee County, the communications center number is (239) 477-1000.
Though Carroll was all for enhanced supervision of the way licenses are handed out — he noted that his wife has trouble seeing and doesn’t drive, but even she has a valid license — he still seems in a bit of a conundrum on whether the issue of licenses should be treated more strictly.
On Monday, Carroll was milling about the Pavilion Shopping Center near the busy Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41 intersection.
“My wife likes to shop,” Carroll said of his reason for visiting the strip mall. “The days I can’t play golf, I’m the chauffeur.”