Red light cameras at center of mayoral race

Published On: Sep 18 2012 03:00:02 PM EDT
Updated On: Sep 18 2012 11:00:00 PM EDT

A red light camera program is at the center of the mayoral race in Hallandale Beach.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -

A red light camera program is at the center of the mayoral race in Hallandale Beach.

"Let's face it, Florida drivers are the worst drivers in the nation," Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper told Local 10's Bob Norman.

Cooper said that's the reason she supports red light cameras in the city. Red light runners are fined $150 for a violation.

But a recent study found that accidents at the two intersections in Hallandale Beach with the red light cameras have actually increased.

"There's an increase in rear-end traffic collisions as everybody predicted there would be," said Hallandale Commissioner Keith London.

London, who is running against Cooper for mayor, said that numerous studies have shown accidents increase because people come to abrupt halts to avoid tickets.

"Yes, and the reason is drivers are now more prudent and not challenging the red light," said Hallandale Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy.

Some believe the installation of the cameras was only about money.

"In less than a year, we collected $1.2 million," said London.

The majority of fines were paid for failing to come to a complete stop during right hand turns.

"Stop is stop. It's not a stoptional. You're supposed to stop, count to three and then look each way," said Cooper.

In 2010, the Florida Legislature made rolling right hand turns on red lights legal as long as drivers were "prudent and careful." Government revenues from red light cameras plummeted across Florida, including in Hallandale Beach.

"It was very much a gotcha and I think the legislature saw that," said London. "Now, we're down to about $10,000 a month."

London said the city used to make $80,000 to $100,000 a month before then law changed.

The city was also sued and paid a $332,000 settlement to those who were improperly ticketed. The city also pays police to review the tapes and go to court.

"Yeah, there's a lot of man hours in that," said London.

But Cooper insisted the city can't lose money with the red light cameras.

"It's zero cost to the taxpayers of this city," said Cooper.

Cooper's comment differed from what she said a few months prior.

"We have costs, true costs of police officers' overtime, legal costs," said Cooper in March.

Cooper later clarified that she meant the city has enough money in a trust fund from previous fines to pay for any losses. American Traffic Solutions, a private company, runs the cameras.

"Do you believe that a company from Scottsdale, Arizona, should profit from law enforcement in Hallandale Beach?" asked Local 10's Bob Norman.

"I think they have a technology that works," said Cooper.

London called the program a failure.

Mayor Cooper said the city still has $800,000 in a trust fund from paid fines, and said the city won't lose money on the cameras. She also believes the cameras prevent high-speed t-bone accidents, though studies conflict on whether that is true.

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