EAST COUNTY — Two Manatee County intersections already feature the technology, but the red-light cameras activated June 18, at State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard, hold special significance for East County residents.
The intersection is where Melissa Wandall’s husband was killed, just miles from their home, by a red-light runner. The accident occurred about a week before the birth of their child, Madisyn, now 9.
And it’s the intersection at which John Barnott, director of the Manatee County Building Department, responded the night Mark Wandall was killed in October 2003.
At a Manatee Board of County Commissioners meeting June 18, Barnott, a Tara resident who worked as the county administrator for utilities at the time of Wandall’s death, announced the intersection as one of four to go active that day.
The other red-light cameras are not located in the East County.
“It’s a bad intersection I experience every day,” Barnott said. “This is something Melissa has championed for a long time, and the county couldn’t be more supportive of her.”
For six years, Melissa Wandall worked with lawmakers to create the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which regulates the use of cameras for enforcing traffic control law.
It was signed into law May 13, 2010.
Since then, Manatee has activated red-light cameras at two intersections (see sidebar), both last year.
Barnott says the cameras are working, and the county hasn’t garnered much revenue from tickets given out at those intersections.
“Violation numbers are going down, because people are obeying the law,” Barnott said. “This is not about revenue at all; this is a safety issue.”
For Wandall, it’s personal. But, it’s also become a larger mission to change driving behaviors and save lives.
Wandall has carried on the mission with her daughter, Madisyn, who sat in the back seat on five-hour drives to Tallahassee.
Now, mother and daughter regularly decorate a marker on the side of the road, directly across State Road 70.
The county invited the two to the June 18 commission meeting.
The cameras here elicit extra emotion for Wandall, but they are just the beginning of an evolving program.
“We want Manatee to have the best camera program possible,” Wandall said. “When the bill passed, we could have just walked away, but we’ve stayed to watch to see what can be improved with it.”
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law June 12 changes in red-light camera rules.
The changes, which take effect July 1, say drivers will no longer receive tickets at intersections with red-light cameras when they come to a complete stop before making a right-hand turn.
Another provision increases the time motorists have to pay the fine from 30 days, after the notice of violation, to 60 days. After that time, the violation carries higher penalties, including a $264 fine compared to the initial $158 fine.
Barnott said the county would review the changes this week to gauge their impact on Manatee.
Meanwhile, the county will continue to work with Xerox, the camera-installation company with which it has contracted, to determine the most dangerous intersections and if there are enough violations to warrant the cost of installing cameras.
“Getting here has been a lot of work and a lot of love,” Wandall said. “I hope people hold on to that love.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].
At a glance
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law June 15 changes to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act legislation.
Changes, which take effect July 1, are as follows:
• Drivers will no longer be ticketed for making a right on red, if they come to a complete stop before turning.
• Fines for running a red light have increased from $158 to $264.
• Violators now have 60 days (instead of 30) to pay their fine.
Red-light cameras in Manatee Active:
• Northbound and southbound at 34th Street W., at 53rd Avenue W.
• Northbound and southbound at 15th Street E., at 57th Avenue E.
Lights activated June 18:
• Westbound at State Road 70, at Tara Boulevard
• Southbound at 26th Street W., at Cortez Road
• Northbound at U.S. 301, at 60th Avenue E., in Ellenton
• Southbound at 60th Avenue E., at U.S. 301, in Ellenton