Late last year, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the leading road safety camera provider in North America, compiled traffic statistics gathered from the red light cameras and found that the Miami-Dade area is the worst in Florida for violating red lights. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay came in second.
Almost 60,000 red light camera tickets were issued in Tampa in 2015, according to data from American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona company that operates the city’s 57 cameras. That’s an increase of almost 44 percent over the previous year.
While the red light cameras are controversial, advocates believe they save lives by encouraging drivers to slow down once they spot the yellow caution light in anticipation of the red stop light.
The company has seen the number of violations per camera across Florida rise from 2.5 to 3.3 per day, said Charles Territo, ATS senior vice president of marketing and communications. Lengthening the yellow light time hasn’t been much of a deterrent either.
“Declaring victory over red-light running by lengthening the amber time is like declaring victory over obesity by buying larger clothes,” Territo said. “The clothes will feel more comfortable for a while but if you don’t change your eating behavior after a while the larger clothes aren’t going to fit anymore either.”
While the controversy over red light cameras continues, the problem with red light running continues unabated. Just this weekend, two Tampa Bay car accident fatalities involved alcohol and red light running. The fatality in northern Pinellas County occurred at the intersection of Curlew Road and McMullen-Booth Road between Palm Harbor and Oldsmar. According to police, the fatal crash was fueled by alcohol and caused by one of the vehicles running a red light.
The other Tampa Bay fatality happened Sunday afternoon involving a car and a motorcycle, once again a red light was involved. A Tampa man faces a DUI manslaughter charge after he was involved in a collision that killed a motorcyclist Sunday afternoon on Gandy Boulevard, Pinellas Park police said. According to police, a blue Mustang driven by Anthony Davis, 25, was stopped for a red light at the intersection in the westbound median lane of Gandy. Wagner was operating a Harley-Davidson, stopped for the light in the eastbound median next to a black Mustang driven by Roshell Rivas, in the center lane.
When the light turned green, police said, Davis made an improper lane change, then ran the red left-turn arrow attempting to make a U-turn into the path of Wagner and Rivas. In the intersection, the two oncoming vehicles struck the passenger side of Davis’ Mustang, police said, and Wagner was ejected from the motorcycle. Lawrence Michael Wagner died as a result of his injuries.
In these two most recent incidents, red light running led directly to fatalities in Tampa Bay. In these two cases, alcohol appears to have played a major role. However, in many red light running accidents, distraction, cell phone use, or impatience are also major contributing factors to serious car accidents. Red light running is a serious problem in Tampa Bay with no solution on the horizon.