Red-light camera battle far from over

Bradenton officials will resume their debate in the coming weeks on whether to return red-light cameras to city intersections after shutting down the program this past August.

Officials seem to favor additional technology that delays an opposing red-light from turning green if sensors pick up a red-light runner. Whether the city chooses that technology alone or if it will be implemented with cameras is the debate to come.

Having lost two friends to red-light runners, Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown has been a staunch supporter of the cameras, and favors using them with the sensor technology.

“People forget we are punishing someone who is breaking the law,” Brown said. “So how do we do the safety part and punish the offender? Instead of eliminating something completely, it’s how do you make it work.”

Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan has remained neutral in the debate, saying data on both sides of the argument is convoluted at best. But she is expressing confidence in the sensor technology as a legitimate safety tool.

“I’m pretty confident the technology is good, and it works,” Bevan said. “We are looking for revenue neutral. We don’t want to make money, but we don’t want to lose money.”

The system is more monetary than it is saving lives.

Florida Representative Wengay Newton, D-District 70

State Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton, D-St. Petersburg, opposes red-light cameras as a standalone tool.

“All they are doing is recording accidents,” Newton said. “Cameras aren’t going to save people. But you do have this technology that doesn’t generate a lot of money, but does address safety. Companies making money don’t want to use that because it doesn’t make money. The system is more monetary than it is saving lives.”

Mark Wandall, the late husband of Melissa Wandall, president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads, was killed by a red-light runner. The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act authorized the first red-light cameras in Florida.

Melissa Wandall, who regularly lobbies in Tallahassee to keep the cameras legal in the state, said she supports the combination of cameras and sensor technology.

If they wanted to fix this bill they would have listened in 2011 when I had concerns about the right-on-red, but nobody wants to fix anything.

Melissa Wandall, National Coalition for Safer Roads president

“I absolutely do,” Wandall said. “It’s not that it’s frustrating. It’s that we have programs that work, and everybody would rather take all of their energy and fight against me because nobody likes to be held accountable.”

The fate of red-light cameras is now in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, which in May agreed to hear a case that may very well determine the legality of the camera program.

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