A yellow traffic light means slow down, but many drivers speed up instead, hoping to beat the light before it turns red.
This strategy may backfire; however, with the installation of red light cameras at many of Jacksonville’s busiest intersections. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is installing red light cameras at 25 intersections that snap a photograph of the driver as he or she runs the red light. Of course, with that proof, comes a traffic ticket – $158 if paid on time and $274 plus three points added to your driving record — if not paid within 30 days.
Cameras are being placed in strategic locations where car accident statistics are high. For example, there are cameras at Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard, the intersection with the highest number of car accidents in Jacksonville. This intersection had 97 crashes in 2012.
The goal of the program, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, is to improve safety by catching drivers who run red lights or those who make illegal left turns when lights are red. Drivers are not issued tickets until 30 days after the red light cameras are installed. After the 30-day grace period, a notice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle in the photograph.
Proponents of red light cameras say the devices will save lives. And they have lots of data to support their position. A study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows a 26 percent decrease in traffic fatalities at intersections equipped with cameras. The same study shows 159 fewer deaths during a five-year period in cities that use cameras.
Opponents believe that the cameras are designed to generate revenue and that they target safe drivers and penalize them for shorter than usual yellow lights. More than $100 million was generated last year in Florida communities with red light cameras. The funds are divided between the state, cities and counties, and the camera companies.
A subtle change to decrease the duration of yellow lights in Florida has led to more red light violations. The Florida Department of Transportation enacted shorter yellow light intervals in 2011. These reduced intervals are below federal recommendations. Studies show that just a half-second reduction can result in double the amount of red light camera violations. Not all cities shortened their yellow light intervals, in fact, some increased the yellow light times because they were not in compliance with the minimum interval time.
As new cameras are installed, warning signs will notify drivers as they approach intersections with the devices. In addition to Jacksonville, red light cameras have also been installed in Green Cove Springs and Palatka and have been approved for Orange Park as well.
For a complete listing of the locations of red light cameras in Jacksonville, visit the City of Jacksonville’s official website. Details about the Red Light Enforcement program, tag lined “Respect the Red,” are also available on the city’s website.
Written by Elizabeth Allen
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