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Politics

Red Light Camera Bill Gets the Green Light

April 21, 2010 - 6:00pm

A bill that would create a statewide standard for the use of cameras to catch red light runners is ready for a final vote in the House and the president of the Senate said Thursday he's optimistic about the measure.

The bill (HB 325) gained preliminary approval Thursday in the House after approval of an amendment setting out two sets of earmarks for the fines that would be collected.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradendton, camera traffic tickets issued by cities and counties would see $75 of the $158 fine, with the rest going to the state. Tickets issued by cameras on state roads would see more of the money go to the state, though the fine for the scofflaw would be the same, $158.

A competing measure (HB 1235) goes the other way - rather than clarifying that the cameras are legal and standardizing the fines, it would ban the cameras. That measure is also awaiting a final vote in the House.

The bill that was put in position Thursday for a vote - which could come as early as Friday - calls for streaming video and a still photo to be made available to be viewed by the driver later if they want. No citation would be able to be issued without a law enforcement officers approval camera vendors wouldnt just send the tickets out, under the bill. And people who are caught on camera turning right on red without fully stopping would get the benefit of the doubt - no tickets would be issued for people who turn right on red in a careful and prudent manner even if the driver fails to fully stop.

A few communities around Florida have installed the cameras - though Florida law has been silent on their use. The communities have gotten around the problem that traffic laws are reserved to the state by making the fines civil code violations rather than traffic law violations.

The effort to give cities clear authority to install cameras to capture images and later ticket motorists who run red lights has failed to win legislative approval for five years.

But Senate President Jeff Atwater said Thursday that the bill may pass this time.

This may finally be the year, said Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. I think its going to happen.

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