No more warnings for running red lights

If USF student Tristan Casanas received a warning after running a camera-monitored red light, he said he could have avoided two other violations.

The three tickets issued by the Temple Terrace Police Department (TTPD) totaled $375. And like the police department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) says they won’t be issuing any more warnings.

“I was peeved that I wasn’t told about the first violation … which would have been avoided had an officer pulled me over for running a red light,” said Casanas, a senior majoring in American Studies.

The sheriff’s office has mailed out nearly 3,300 warnings to motorists since late October, when it installed cameras to catch red-light runners at six county intersections, said Corporal Darrin Barlow of the HSCO.

On Dec. 29, the 60-day warning period expired, meaning that running a red light at one of the six monitored intersections around the county can now result in a $125 ticket.

The red-light cameras are located at these intersections: Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway; Waters Avenue and Anderson Road; Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard; Brandon Boulevard and Grand Regency Boulevard; Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue; and Sligh Avenue and Habana Avenue.

Barlow said the Hillsborough County cameras have a turnaround time of about two weeks between when the violation occurs and when the citation is received via mail.

The TTPD’s camera system has monitored six intersections within five miles of USF, including Fowler Avenue and N 56th Street since late 2008.

Barlow said the sheriff’s office has worked to avoid complaints of the camera system.

“Discretion is built into our system from the beginning,” he said. “You won’t get a ticket if you stop a little bit past the white line, or don’t make a complete stop when making a right turn on red,” Barlow said. “This system is to catch drivers who blow through a red light and commit the kind of violations that lead to accidents and fatalities. People running red lights is a serious problem here and around the entire state.”

Barlow said every violation recorded by the cameras must be reviewed by a deputy sheriff before a citation can be issued.

Unlike a ticket issued from an officer in person, which carries a fine of $216 and three points on a driver’s license, Barlow said no points can be assessed from the camera-based citations.

But these citations don’t punish the driver of the vehicle who ran the red-light. Instead, a citation is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

Casanas said his father was “furious” after receiving the three tickets.

All three were for violations Casanas committed while borrowing his father’s car to drive to campus.

University Police spokeswoman Meg Ross said drivers running red lights is not a huge problem on campus. She said pedestrians and drivers who ignore each other’s right of way at crosswalks is the bigger issue.

In 2009, Ross said USF police issued 13 citations following crashes for failure to stop on red or yield right of way.