Red Light Cameras Running in Clearwater
The six month red light camera program starts July 1 with a 30 day grace period for violators through the month. The cameras will be at Chestnut Street and Ft. Harrison Avenue and at Gulf to Bay Boulevard (State Road 60) and Belcher Road.
Rolf Beckmann has manned about 30 different posts in the last three years as a crossing guard.
His latest tour: Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road, one of the city’s most dangerous intersections.
He knows all too well how risky it is there. Tire tracks line the concrete sidewalk. A cone set up between lanes of traffic on the north side of the intersection on Belcher Road is hit countless times while he is on patrol.
Beckmann, in his black sneakers and crossing guard uniform topped with an orange hat, watched crews install and adjust red light cameras that are aimed at cars crossing his latest intersection.
“I think eventually it will slow them down a bit,” Beckmann said while on duty Thursday afternoon.
The cameras record traffic each minute, every day of the week. They do not sleep or blink. The high powered lens’ just record; taking pictures and video of red light runners.
The city approved a measure to add red light cameras for a six month trial program in November. The cameras went live July 1. There is a 30 day grace period before violators get a $158 ticket.
The cameras are set up at these intersections:
- eastbound Gulf to Bay at Belcher Road
- westbound Gulf to Bay at Belcher Road
- eastbound Chestnut Street at Ft. Harrison Avenue
The video images are sent to Clearwater Police to review and then a citation is mailed to the vehicle owner.
Initially plans called for putting a camera at Sunset Point and Belcher Road. The downtown camera location was chosen after new traffic information was available.
The plan went through months of debate. Officials were worried about legal challenges and if the state was going to outlaw the cameras.
The cameras are installed to help keep roads safe, officials have said.
In Clearwater, over the last three years, there were 250 collisions at signalized intersections because of red light running.
There were 11 accidents at the Chestnut intersection and 10 at Belcher Road and Gulf to Bay Boulevard during a three-month study.
Fatal crash rates involving red light running reduced 24 percent in 14 large cities using red light cameras from 2004 to 2008, according to a 2011 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
“The use of cameras is proven to reduce the number of red light and speeding-related speeding traffic violations, as well as the number of red light and speeding-related collisions and injuries,” Joelle Castelli, city spokeswoman, said in a release.
If the six-month trial is successful, the city will be locked into the contract for another two and a half years or pay a fee to get out of it.
The city can get out of the agreement if there is not a reduction in red-light running of at least 15 percent.
Redflex, the chosen operator of the red light cameras, have contracts to oversee more than 300 camera systems across the country.
Dennis Carter lives near Enterprise and McMullen Booth Roads. He drives near the Gulf to Bay and Belcher intersection often. He owns a business installing windshields on cars and is set up at the Sunoco gas station on the corner.
Carter thinks the cameras will reduce red light running but not the road rage he sees at the intersection.
So what does he think about the cameras?
“I’d rather get a ticket in the mail than get pulled over by a cop,” Carter said.
For more on Clearwater's red light cameras: http://www.clearwaterpolice.org/stoponred