In January, the city added three additional red-light cameras to busy Sarasota intersections, increasing the total number of the high-resolution, high-speed cameras to 10 citywide.
Police say the cameras make roadways safer. Sarasota Sgt. Bryan Graham points to a 15.38% overall reduction in accidents/citations at the intersections that have had the cameras in place for at least a year.
However, the motorists who get a notice of violation might not be the cameras’ biggest fans.
Nick Russell was on vacation in Sarasota from Brattleboro, Vt. the week of March 5. Earlier in the week he was in Miami, a location that has been using the red-light camera system since early 2011. At an intersection in Miami, he turned right at a red-light signal and noticed the flash of the camera.
“There were no other cars coming, and I didn’t see the sign, ‘no right turn on red,’” Russell said. “I’m pretty sure when I get home there will be a ticket waiting in the mail.”
Although Russell was initially upset about the prospect of receiving a violation in the mail, the tourist said he understands how the cameras might be necessary because “drivers fly” in Florida.
In October, city commissioners approved the installation of 10 more cameras to punish violators and help bolster city coffers.
Maria Fidelibus, general manager of The Coffee Loft, can see the red-light cameras at U.S. 41 and University Parkway from outside the café.
“When we first opened (last March) there seemed to be more accidents,” Fidelibus said.
The intersection’s two cameras have captured the most red-light violations in the city thus far, 8,751 total.
Fidelibus said she hopes the red-light cameras at the dangerous intersection will help deter speeders.
“I think if people realize there is an imaginary cop car there, hopefully they will be a little more mindful of their driving and a little safer,” Fidelibus said.
Although the devices flash (see How They Work) when a camera captures a photo, it does not necessarily mean a motorist will get a ticket.
“People will see the flash and think they are automatically getting a ticket,” Graham said. “It just means it is taking a photo. It could be taking a photo of the car next to you.”
Graham also said the police department gets a lot of calls when the cameras are being tested — which results in numerous flashes from the cameras.
The registered owner of a car who runs a red light is responsible for paying the $158 notice of violation fine, regardless of whether the owner was driving the car at that time. The notice of violation is not considered an actual ticket, and therefore, adds no violation points to the owner’s driver’s license. However, those who don’t pay the violation fine within 30 days get their notice upgraded to an official ticket that garners a $264 fine and four points on the owner’s driver’s license.