Following recent legislation signed into law in May by Gov. Charlie Crist, Tallahassee will begin testing red-light cameras at two locations on June 21.

Once testing is completed at the end of the month, the program will be expanded to six intersections throughout the city. Drivers will then be given a 30-day grace period before tickets will be issued for $158, which does not include additional court costs of up to $98. Of this sum, $70-$100 goes to the state, with the remainder going to local governments and American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based camera provider.

While the law is being touted as focusing on “reducing violations and the potential for traffic collisions,” questions have been raised about not only the presence of cameras providing increased safety but the financial incentive for a statewide rollout of the program as well:

Because local governments in Florida are finding it tough to collect sufficient revenue through property taxes and other sources due to the recession, they rely increasingly on traffic tickets and DUI fines to finance programs. Worse yet, once systems such as red-light cameras are entrenched as a revenue source, they create a disincentive for local governments to synchronize lights for maximum flow or partially deactivate unneeded lights during times of sparse traffic.

There is also overwhelming evidence to support the notion that red-light cameras actually increase accidents and raise insurance rates, while a much simpler and cheaper solution has been proven successful in states such as Virginia, Colorado, and Georgia:

In a study of six jurisdictions over a seven-year period, the Virginia Transportation Research Council concluded that camera installations were associated with an increase in rear-end collisions. In 2001, the Virginia Department of Transportation increased by 1.5 seconds the length of the yellow-light cycle at an intersection with cameras. The increase in the yellow-light time resulted in a 94 percent drop in citations at the intersection.

Last year, Norcross, Georgia officials abandoned the use of red-light cameras in the wake of mandatory increases in yellow-light intervals statewide, because violations dropped to the point where the privately operated camera systems were costing the city revenue.

The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, named for a Bradenton man killed by a red-light runner in 2003, takes effect July 1.

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