Now that Tallahassee has instituted a statewide red-light camera law, Sarasota plans to again pursue installing cameras on city streets.
City attorney Robert Fournier will report to the City Commission next month and spell out the steps the city needs to take if it wants to post cameras at its most dangerous intersections.
The state law goes into effect July 1 and allows municipalities to install red-light cameras. Previously, some Florida cities had enacted their own ordinances, many of which are now subject to lawsuits.
Last year, city commissioners discussed creating an ordinance to allow red-light cameras, but decided to wait until those lawsuits went through the appeal process or the governor signed a statewide bill.
“If we follow (state law), we don’t have to wait for the appeal of the lawsuits,” said Fournier.
The new law also requires FDOT to create a list of requirements for a red-light camera. Those specifications are due by Dec. 31. Cities would then have six months to comply with those requirements.
Fournier said if the city bought or leased cameras now, it’s possible it would have to pay to have them replaced if they didn’t meet FDOT’s specifications.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta, though, said he doesn’t want to wait a year to install the cameras. He believes the city can find a vendor that will switch out the cameras, if necessary, at little or no cost.
“We want to cut down on people running red lights,” he said.
Some critics of red-light cameras believe the intent of the law is not as much about safety as it is about generating income.
State law requires a $158 fine for red-light runners caught by a camera. Municipalities will receive $75 of that fine.
“It’s not going to be a huge moneymaker for us,” said Bartolotta.
He did not want to give an estimate of how much money the city could receive as a result of red-light fines, because he’s not sure how many cameras will be installed.
The city has work to do before it can place red-light cameras at intersections. The state law says drivers served with violations have the right to appeal, so the city has to set up that appeal process.
It will also have to conduct an education campaign with public meetings and newspaper ads 30 days before the installation.
Signs will also have to be posted at each intersection with a camera that state there are cameras there.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
In Chapter 316 of the Florida statutes, the law that governs red-light cameras, the cameras are called “traffic-infraction detectors.”