By James Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Daytona Times –
The Rev. Victor Gooden and his wife were involved in an accident in April 1991 on the corner of Orange Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Daytona Beach.
Both he and his wife were injured by someone who ran a red light at that intersection. At the time, there were no cameras and no way to identify who was driving the car.
Gooden, who is an advocate for cameras at intersections to catch red light runners, related this story to Daytona Beach commissioners at a meeting last October when they decided to approve installing cameras at selected intersections throughout the city.
The pastor said he is in support of the program because he believes that behavior can be controlled. "Behavior is controlled by guidelines and rules; the commission sets the rules to make it safer," he said.
The camera captures a picture of a car’s license plate while it’s running a red light. A fine is then mailed to the owner of the car.
The owner of a car caught driving through a red light where the cameras are installed will receive a $158 citation. The state gets $83 of the money and the city collects $75. Tickets will begin to be issued on April 4.
Daytona Beach city officials have received permission from the Florida Department of Transportation for five locations it requested to have red light cameras installed, according to the city’s public information officer.
The contractor recently began installing cameras at International Speedway Boulevard and Clyde Morris. It takes about two weeks to install five cameras, which includes running cable and pouring concrete for the bases, said Susan Cerbone, spokesman for the city of Daytona Beach.
"There is a 30-day warning period before notice of violations is issued. The intersections were selected based on crash data," she explained.
Cameras pose concerns
The first five intersections are: Nova Road and US 92, Nova Road and George Engram Boulevard, Nova Road and Mason Avenue, Ridgewood Avenue (US 1) and US 92; and Clyde Morris Boulevard and US 92.
Four of the five intersections are located in the majority Black section of the city.
Some critics have raised concerns about drivers who may be ticketed unfairly due to the sensitivity of the cameras.
"It’s about behavior modification. We are looking for people that are blowing the red lights. The objective is to reduce crashes," Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood told the commissioners.
Chitwood said the red light cameras also would help catch criminals. "If you do a drug deal or rob a bank, you are not stopping at that red light and sometimes we don’t get any information other than it was a blue car. If the car goes through a red light, it gets the license plate number... it gives us a starting point that we may not have had to begin with," he said.
Bill opposes law
Daytona Beach City commissioners approved the installation of the cameras last October with a vote of 5-2.
At least one Florida senator Rene Garcia wants the red light law approved last year repealed and has filed a bill to do so.
The law is an "unwarranted, big-brother initiative," said Garcia, R-Hialeah in a statement last month announcing he had filed the bill (SB 672).
If Garcia’s bill were to pass, the measure would require cameras be removed from state roads by next July. At least 50 communities in Florida had red light cameras last year.
The main objections have been that the cameras violate drivers’ civil liberties, a fear of wrongful ticketing, and that they gouge unsuspecting residents.
A study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that red light cameras saved 159 lives during a four-year period ending in 2008 in a study of 14 major U.S. cities.
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