COLLIER COUNTY — Collier County motorists who run red lights next year won’t have cameras to catch them.
Commissioners voted 3-2 Wednesday to terminate the county’s contract with American Traffic Solutions for the controversial red light cameras effective Feb. 28, 2013, and have the company remove the cameras from intersections. There are currently 19 cameras at dozen intersections throughout the county.
Commissioners also directed the county staff to look at the timing of the traffic lights to help enhance safety.
In February, commissioners approved a 10-year contract with ATS. As part of the contract, the county has been paying the company $28,500 per month to run the program. The county then splits the money collected from the fines with the state.
The county had the option to cancel the contract with ATS after one year, provided it gave the company 30 days notice.
Commissioner Georgia Hiller asked that the county cancel the contract because there was “no demonstrated evidence that these cameras reduce accidents.”
Instead, she said she wanted county staff to look at traffic light timing management, including the timing of yellow lights and four-way light clearance times.
“I know staff is doing it,” she said, “but we are not there yet.”
County Growth Administrator Nick Casalanguida said county staff has looked at the light timing in some of the county’s main corridors and that staff would be happy to make a presentation to the county commissioners during their meeting in February.
Commissioners Fred Coyle and Donna Fiala, who voted against the item, said they don’t have a problem with staff looking at the timing of the lights, but disagreed with canceling the red light cameras contract.
“We have them for safety reasons,” Fiala said. “Since we have had them, there have been zero deaths (because of red light running).”
County records show the cameras caught about 760 red light violations per month between April 2009 and December 2011.
But Commissioner Tim Nance said he was anxious to get rid of “this onerous program.” He said deaths at red lights typically come from people who do not stop at the light, not people who are trying to “sneak through” the light as it changes to red.
Commissioners first approved the cameras on county roads in April 2008, with Coyle saying at the time that Collier “is the worst community I’ve ever seen in my entire life as far as red-light running or stop sign running is concerned.” The first cameras were installed about a year later at the intersection of Airport-Pulling Road and Pine Ridge Road.
During the first year of the program, about 25,000 people received citations after being caught on camera running red lights. But about 90 percent of those went to drivers turning right on red. Commissioners later amended the program eliminating right-on-red citations to come into compliance with a new law legalizing the cameras on state roads.
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, a proponent of the cameras, was not at the meeting Wednesday, but sent commissioners a letter voicing his support for the program.
In the Dec. 10 letter, Rambosk said the idea for the cameras came from residents and homeowners’ associations who made inquiries about unsafe traffic conditions in the county.
“The cameras have resulted in an observable change in driving behavior,” he wrote. “These efforts have all but eliminated citizen complaints about red light runners.”
Rambosk told the commissioners in February that without the cameras, he would need to add four or five traffic officers at a cost of $100,000 per officer.