Fines for traffic violations may be issued as a result of video cameras at some of the more dangerous intersections in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida. The Jacksonville City Council recently approved a plan to put video cameras at ten or more intersections in Jacksonville to catch drivers who run red lights, record their license plate numbers and issue a civil infraction (ranging from $125 to $300) to the owner of the vehicle that ran the red light. There are approximately three hundred cities in the United States that use cameras at intersections to catch drivers running red lights.
According to Florida law, local governments are not allowed to use pictures from cameras installed at intersections to issue traffic tickets. However, the few Florida cities that have such cameras and the cities like Jacksonville that have plans to install the cameras intend to circumvent the law by issuing civil infractions, or violations, instead of tickets. The end result is the same- a fine for the owner of the vehicle that runs the red light.
There are several criticisms of the red light cameras. While there is evidence that these red light cameras reduce the number of drivers who run red lights to some degree and slightly reduce the number of certain types of auto accidents, there is also evidence that the cameras actually increase rear end accidents. According to an article from MSNBC.com, there are numerous reports that suggest that the red light cameras cause drivers to slam on their brakes as they approach an intersection to avoid a fine which has resulted in an increase in the number of rear end accidents at these intersections with the cameras. The Federal Highway Administration’s first study of intersections with red light cameras found that there have been 14.9% more crashes at these intersections than what would have been expected at intersections without red light cameras.
Another unexpected criticism that has caused several cities to take the red light cameras down is that they worked too well in preventing drivers from running red lights. These cities expected the red light cameras to generate enough revenue to pay for the cameras and also provide much needed additional revenue for the city budgets. However, in Dallas for example, the drivers figured out where the red light cameras were and stopped running those lights. That’s certainly good from a safety standpoint, but the revenue lost from fewer traffic fines did not just deprive the city of anticipated revenue, in some cases it meant that the red light cameras did not even pay for themselves. As a result, Dallas, along with some other cities, have taken the red light cameras down where they have worked too well.
It remains to be seen when and where Jacksonville will install these cameras and if they will not work very well, will work too well or will be just right.