TALLAHASSEE — One year after approving them, the Florida House pulled a do-over Monday afternoon, narrowly voting to ban red-light cameras on Florida roads.
The bill squeaked through the House on a 59 to 57 vote, the closest floor vote in the House this year.
Most of Southwest Florida’s elected representatives – Matt Hudson, R-Naples, Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, and Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, who represents a portion of eastern Collier County – voted against banning the cameras.
“My biggest contention is, we voted on this last year, and the bill sponsor, who I respect very much, cited cities all around the country, and even in Canada, but he didn’t talk about specific cities in Florida,” Hudson said. “In my county, crashes are down 20 percent, and by golly, if you’ve got 20 percent less crashes in your town, then you’re saving people’s lives, and I think that’s where we should be.”
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, voted in favor of the ban. He said he has fundamental issues with using cameras as an enforcement model, and is swayed by studies that show the cameras cause more crashes than they prevent as drivers slam on their brakes to avoid citations.
“If you’re really concerned about traffic safety, it’s about engineering design. It’s not about trying to catch people with a camera,” Caldwell said. “What sways me is the Fourth Amendment argument, the fact that you go ahead and are convicted of a traffic citation without any proof that you were the one driving. Just because it was your car doesn’t mean it was you.”
A companion bill in the Senate narrowly passed through the Senate Transportation Committee in late March, but doesn’t seem to have made any progress since. The Senate would have to approve the bill this week before it could be sent to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed into law.
In addition to repealing last year’s law, which legalized the use of cameras on state roads and mandated a $158 citation, House Bill 4087 goes a step further, repealing the authorization for local governments to install and run red-light camera programs.
Collier started its red-light camera program in April 2009. In the first year, the county doled out about 25,000 citations, a vast majority to people rolling through right-on-red turns.
Last year, the Florida Legislature passed a law legalizing the use of red-light running cameras on state roads. However, Collier officials interpreted the new state law to read that it didn’t allow the cameras to issue citations for right turns made in a “careful and prudent manner,” effectively ending right-on-red citations.
Collier amended its program and its contract with its camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions.
Passidomo voted to keep the cameras because she believes they’ve been effective.
“There was a time when you had four, five and six people going through on a red light (in Collier County),” Passidomo said. “Well, now people stop.”