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Red-light cameras not quite illegal

Published: Thursday, November 6, 2008

Updated: Thursday, November 6, 2008 00:11

Despite state law, officers can enforce violations caught on red-light cameras. That’s because runni

Special to the Oracle

Despite state law, officers can enforce violations caught on red-light cameras. That’s because running a red light is a city ordinance violation, not a traffic violation.

At first, it sounds like a paradox: Red-light cameras have been installed at intersections around USF to catch people who run lights, but it's against state law to use the cameras to enforce traffic violations.

Though Florida law states that these red-light cameras are illegal in some situations, the Temple Terrace Police Department hasn't done any anything wrong, said department spokesman Michael Dunn.

"(Running a red light) is not a traffic violation, it is a city ordinance violation," he said.

A report issued by Deputy State Traffic Operations Officer Mark C. Wilson on Nov. 27 said that "current Florida Law does not allow the use of red-light running Cameras for the enforcement of a traffic violation. The Florida Department of Transportation does not allow the use of red-light running cameras on any of our intersections on the State Highway System."

Dunn said the red-light cameras aren't a problem, however, because the report stated that cameras cannot be put on Florida Department of Transportation property — a rule the police department has followed.

"If it was illegal, we wouldn't put them up," he said.

In February, the Temple Terrace City Council passed an ordinance that allowed the installation of red-light cameras in Temple Terrace.

Nine months later, the cameras are spread out across nine locations, including Fowler Avenue and 56th Street, Fowler Avenue and Riverhills Drive, and 56th Street and Bullard Parkway.

American Traffic Solutions, an Arizona-based company that provides photo-traffic safety and electronic-toll enforcement programs, installed the cameras.

The cameras catch unsuspecting drivers in the act of running a red light. They are designed to take two digital photos and record digital video of the offense, according to

The Temple Terrace Police Department reviews and confirms the violation and sends the vehicle owner a "Notice of Violation," or a fine. There is a $100 fine for the first offense, and the cost escalates for each additional offense.

Dunn said they mail the notices because the police department doesn't have enough staff to sit at an intersection and pull people over, adding that it is very difficult to catch someone who just ran a red light.

"You basically need two cars: One to see where the person enters the intersection and another car to be positioned so that you can see where the person passed the light," he said. "Then the car has to zoom out and catch that car in heavy traffic, and that is very dangerous."

Some students said the Temple Terrace police should employ other methods of ticket delivery.

Some students who live on campus don't check their mail because they use their parents' home addresses as their primary mailing addresses and don't expect to receive anything at their campus mailboxes.

"People that don't check their mail are going to be fined for not paying their ticket when they didn't even know they got a ticket in the first place," freshman Daniel Robinson said.

The computer engineering major said he never checks his mail, and "probably has a ticket in the mail right now."

Robinson said he thought that if he did get a ticket, he would have to pay it no matter what, but that is not the case.

Students can appeal the ticket by requesting a hearing in writing. The appeal needs to be mailed by the date specified on the Notice of Violation. If the appeal is won, the person doesn't have to pay the fine. If the person is found liable, he or she must pay $50 for court costs on top of the fine within 15 days of the hearing.

"I think the cops should show up at your door and give the notice to you in person," said biomedical science sophomore John Williams. "Either that or they should pull you over."

Williams said the mailing system cannot be relied upon for something like giving out notices, and that many things can happen after the letter gets to the mailbox, such as a roommate throwing it out.

According to the Temple Terrace City Council, the installation of red-light cameras ensures safer driving.

The council pointed out a Philadelphia report, which stated that signal violations at intersections with red-light cameras dropped 96 percent after one year of operation.

The report is not uncontested, however. Last March, the USF College of Public Health said red-light cameras increase the likelihood of car crashes.

Other states have a similar point of view, as the Virginia Transportation Research Council found that crashes at intersections with the cameras increased by 29 percent.

Director of Communications and Public Affairs for American Traffic Solutions Josh Weiss refutes USF's findings.

"The report's findings are also the exact opposite of what our clients nationally have experienced," he wrote in a statement. "We place no credibility in this obviously biased study.  We have more faith in the chiefs of police and traffic professionals than a disgruntled academician who clearly has some ax to grind."

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Fri Aug 2 2013 03:22
Just because somebody graduated from a top law school does not mean that they have a good understanding of the law. What you need to look for is a lawyer who has an extensive amount of experience in cases that are similar to yours. This way you can be sure that they will have the knowledge that they need to handle your case.
Thu May 6 2010 11:54
Does anyone know a foolproof method of actually fighting these tickets rather than just ignoring them? I'm not going to pay $100 because I didn't come to a full stop before turning right when there were no cars in site because it's absurd, but I also don't want to damage my credit score.
Wed Apr 21 2010 17:54
driving is your right. not a priviledge. if i could load up the public transportation bus with all of my work equipment and lug it around with me for 5 to 10 jobs a day then i would. i have not received a "red light camera ticket" and do obey the laws but i'm not an android who stops at lights just because the color is red. i'm a human being with common sense. lights don't make judgement calls, and laws don't make judgement calls ,people make judgement calls...
Mon Apr 12 2010 15:36
I got a ticket at 5 in the morning at 56th and Bullard turning right at 7mph on my way to PT. Why should I pay that ticket? I'm not defending the state of Temple Terrace.... There were clearly no other vehicles coming in the direction I was turning. People are not stupid, despite what the city thinks. I hope Temple Terrace turns into a ghost town and falls off the face of every well respected map.
Mike B
Mon Mar 29 2010 14:43
Don't pay these red light tickets!! This is nothing more than a scam that is perpetrated by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) with the help of the local government. The worst that can come from not paying this fine is it might go to a collections agency and get put on your credit report. If you have multiple unpaid tickets, ATS might hire a process server to serve you a notice to appear. In this case, court records would be created and you would then and only then become liable for the fines. If you get one or two of this 'notice of violation' letters, I would disregard them and throw them in the trash. Also, contact your elected representative and voice your complaint against this travesty!
Mon Feb 8 2010 01:33
How about a warning first? A fine is just proof that it's all about the money. I have been turning on 56th/Bullard for 5 years now the same way to and from work daily. They recently changed the crosswalk from vertical lines to 2 horizontal lines that look similar to the stop bar and I got a ticket.........trickery?
Sat Feb 6 2010 21:20
The real crime is committed by TT for giving these Citations. The camera can not understand the reality of the situation if there is no on coming traffic or people crossing the street then slowly making a right turn with common sense is OK. This is just very hard to understand in this pressing time of our economy. This is stealing from your residents. I do not live in TT and you can be sure that I will no longer be doing business with any of the shops in your town again. I will also make sure that every one I know will know of this and discourage them not to do any business in your pathetic little city.
Thomas Jefferson
Fri Jan 8 2010 12:42
I read the other day that they have a new program slated for Temple Terrace it is a intra-anus camera system to be installed in all residents to catch any illegally ingested substances.
Fri Nov 20 2009 12:41
your mom
Tue Nov 10 2009 19:17
speaking from the standpoint of someone who recieved a ticket on 56th and Fowler... i totally deserved it.
get a life people!
Fri Oct 30 2009 07:02
“(Running a red light) is not a traffic violation, it is a city ordinance violation,” he said.

Uh huh.. And the increase in the price of cigarettes is not a is a "users fee". A rose by any other name.. etc. Remember back when this was America? When, if you unknowingly committed a minor violation, an officer would pull you over and give you a warning? I would guess that 99.9% of the nation allows you to turn right on red regardless of whether or not you came to a full stop first. So what a coincidence that in a city where the law is different, there is a handy camera right there waiting to take your picture.. Yes, there is a sign, but you don't have to be a psych major to know that humans beings are creatures of habit. If we have been turning right on red for 20 or thirty years without worry about coming to a full stop first, we will not notice a sign saying this is not allowed. Temple Terrace knows this and is capitalizing on it. And I for one will no longer shop in any Temple Terrace store because of it.
In this time of record high unemployment, this only creates yet more hardship. I haven't been employed in over 12 years. Now that my husband has died, I am virtually without income, and yet I now have to squeeze out $100 on my credit card for this. Come into my trap said the spider to the fly!

Also, if you do a little research, you will find that the yellow lights seem to be considerably shorter at the lights with cameras. Hmmmm Another coincidence?

Thu Oct 8 2009 15:22
Worried about red light cameras, well here is the solutuion- Stop for red lights. A yellow light means prepare to stop and then safely stop for the red light. For right turn on red intersections, come to a complete stop. This means that you apply your brakes until your tires stop turning. Always stop short of the stop line. Result, NO ticket. Sounds simple doesn't it? As a person that regularly reviews these tickets, I can tell you sixty to seventy percent of all camera activations for red light violations are rejected and do not result in the issuance of tickets. Of the remaining, fifty percent are for right turn, forty percent are for straight through, and ten percent are left turn.
Frank Billings
Tue Sep 29 2009 08:06
The problem with so many small minded drivers is that they do NOT think for a minute about the consequences of running red lights.....people get killed and have their lives forever changed because of irresponsible drivers. This program makes some people think, and hopefully change their behavior, while penalizing the reckless people who put us all at risk. Kudos for moving forward ... and shame on the legislature for not making this a statewide program already.
Sam Studmuffin
Tue Sep 22 2009 11:41
Spray painting the camera window solves the problem. I also hear they just throw a tire over the camera and set it ablaze in Europe--not that I would ever advocate doing such a thing.
Tue Sep 8 2009 04:15
As a Tampa Resident, I have not made one purchase in Temple Terrace since they installed the cameras! If everyone from the surrounding communities as well as the residents of Temple Terrace did this then the local business would then put the pressure on their city council! The way the cameras are set up it is a revenue thing and not a safety issue, so if they aren't getting dollars in their community then they will have to rethink this!
TT Resident
Sun Aug 9 2009 14:44
So the city of Temple Terrace demonstrates it's concern for red light running by moving cops out of these intersections, reducing the fine by almost a half, does not place points on violators licenses, leaves no permanent record on the violator's records, and reduces the states tough penalties on red light runners to essentially a fake ticket with all the enforcement muscle of a late library book fine?
Way to be tough on crime, Temple Terrace.
Wed Jul 29 2009 10:11
I have two sentences to comment.

Big brother is watching. Look up.

Tue Jul 21 2009 14:20
It sounds wonderful to just say "stop at the light" but there are so many circumstances that are unknown. I have received a citation/bill/ whatever you want to call it and the pictures show me at the intersection but it doesn't include the red light in the picture. How do I know the light was actually red???
JP gonzales
Tue Jul 14 2009 03:02
I can't wait until the speed ticket cameras get put in. Bad drivers need to be punished and they need hide them everywhere. Only people have problem with automatic ticket is persons who guilty
Sean J
Mon Jul 13 2009 19:13
If the city has a problem with the Florida legislature's LAW, then they should work to change the law.
Circumventing the laws of the state by exploiting loopholes is inherently wrong and they should answer to that.
How about the city council just follow the law and issue tickets in the manner in which almost every other municipality does? Why does Temple Terrace believe that state law should not apply to them?
Red light runners are a dangerous problem, but when Temple Terrace acts outside of the law to combat it, they demonstrate that their concern in revenue generation and not public safety.
If they were concerned with saving lives, then they would have officers there conducting vehicle stops and writing citations that truly hold red light runners accountable by impacting the violator's driving record and proper court procedings. But that is not the case.

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