Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Red-light cameras a go

 

OUR OPINION: Cameras at Miami intersections improve safety

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

Even drivers who loathe them — and there are a considerable number in greater Miami — might one day have their lives saved because of red-light cameras.

Indeed, drivers in various cities with cameras might already have gotten from Point A to Point B in one piece because another driver who might have run the light stopped instead, thanks to those pesky cameras.

When Miami city commissioners meet Thursday, they should not let the nuisance factor outweigh that of safety. Commissioners will consider whether to create a municipal appeals process in which drivers who want to challenge a red-light fine can do so at City Hall, instead of in county court.

The Legislature approved this revision during its most recent session. Commissioners should now follow through and give it their OK, too. Doing so will make the streets safer, save red-light violators money, help fund two worthy and related causes and, yes, produce revenue for the city. This last result is the most common complaint by drivers who think the cameras are simply a municipal cash cow.

But that’s not the whole story. According to City Manager Johnny Martinez, Miami’s 148 red-light cameras, placed at 92 intersections, have modified many drivers’ bad behavior. Crashes caused by people scooting through a light that just turned red have decreased — though he could not say whether the same has happened with rear-end fender benders. That reduction alone — sparing drivers the risk of a deadly T-bone crash — is enough to maintain the cameras.

Currently, drivers who appeal a fine must pay $119 in court costs on top of the $158 fine if they lose. But if commissioners approve the municipal magistrate proposal, those drivers will pay somewhere between $50 and $85 for the appeal to be heard.

As for revenue raised, out of each $158 fine paid, the state and city split about an equal share with $10 going to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s trauma center and $3 to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. From the city’s take, ATS, the Arizona-based company that provides the cameras gets 40 percent, the city the rest.

Last year, fines added up to $5.8 million in the city; of that, $2.2 million went to ATS.

The question before city commissioners is a simple one. However, red-light camera advocates are concerned that opponents on the dais will use the opportunity to overreach and do away with cameras altogether. Mayoral candidate Francis Suarez is one of those foes, having received two red-light tickets himself. According to records, one was dismissed, another remains unpaid.

Commissioners should stick to the task before them. They should create the magistrate appeal process, and refrain from “fixing” the red-light camera program. It’s not broken.

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