State lawmakers looking to change the usage of red light cameras

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - In 2016, there were 688 red light cameras in use across the state.

The devices are designed to make intersections safer, but lawmakers looking to end the use of red light cameras say the devices actually cause more accidents than they prevent.

A video compilation released by the state’s biggest red light camera provider shows red light offenders around the state. The company’s message: cameras at the intersections could prevent some of the horrific crashes.

The video was released before a major vote in the Florida House, which bans the cameras throughout the state. Co-Sponsor Dane Eagle says the implementation of red light cameras has actually increased accidents by nine percent.

“When you've got the camera up there distracting them, their eyes are off the road they're worried about other things”, says Eagle.

Opponents say while red light cameras may result in more minor crashes, on average they’ve lowered red light running by five percent.

Representative Jared Moskowitz said, “That car doesn't go into the intersection, where then you're talking about a potential catastrophic car accident.”

Florida and local governments take in more than $150 million each year from red-light runners.

The idea of losing that much cash has kept the legislation from moving in the Senate.

Senator Travis Hutson said, “This bill has been a genesis of dollars, money. So we've got to be willing to bite the bullet.”

At the heart of the argument is the sentiment that local municipalities should have the final say in using the cameras or not.

Representative Lori Berman said, “If a local municipality wants it for safety for their municipality they should be the ones who make the decision.”

Supporters of banning the cameras argue cities and counties have used the cameras as a crutch.

Eagle said, “If cities and counties need to raise taxes then they should do that and face the voters, not do it through red light camera tickets.”

If the ban becomes law, local governments would have until 2021 to stop using the cameras.

According to a survey of local governments that have red light camera programs, nearly half of the funds generated from tickets went toward paying camera vendors.