Six months is just not enough time to figure out what role red light cameras play in car crashes, according to Clearwater Police.
While the number of crashes has gone up at intersections with red light cameras, none of the incidents were rear-end collisions related to drivers stopping short to make sure they do not get a red light camera violation, officials say.
Maj. Daniel Slaughter with Clearwater Police compiled a report detailing the red light camera program that started in July and presented it to city leaders Tuesday, March 5.
“The goal is to reduce red light-related traffic crashes as well a improve safety” he said. “Now that we have access, there are a lot of near misses that we are lucky they didn't turn into crashes.”
He said violations have trended downward but it could take two or three years to compile enough crash data to see what the impact the cameras have.
“You can see by the numbers we don't have sample sizes large enough to see ...” Slaughter said.
The system has helped police in criminal and crash investigations and is financially self sustaining, so far, according to records.
The cameras were installed in July 2012 and warnings were issued to violators. Red light running violations at intersections with cameras have decreased each month since fines started to be issued with an exception in December.
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Leaders also were concerned about a letter from Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of Court, asking Clearwater and other cities to stop issuing red light camera violations because there are flaws in the system and his office is spending a disproportionate amount of time dealing with the fallout from violators.
Burke said a significant number of red light violations are issued erroneously to the owner of a vehicle, not the driver.
"These citizens are upset with the poor communication, insufficient information and resulting unfair penalties," Burke wrote in a letter dated Feb. 20 to city leaders in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Kenneth City, South Pasadena and Oldsmar.
Officials wanted to make sure a distinction is made to rental car users that they do not have to pay the typical $256 red light ticket if caught on camera. That violation comes with a $158 fine.
“So why can’t Redflex say since you were leasing this car, the City of Clearwater will allow you to pay $158,” asked Mayor George N. Cretekos.
Slaughter said there are some changes that can be made to the letter the camera company sends to violators.
"We may just flood the clerk with dismissals and transfer our problem," he said.
Officials asked to hear about the program again in six months.
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