Want a straightforward way to tell if red light cameras are working in Florida? Just drive through any intersection and check your mailbox in a few weeks. No ticket? No problem.
The BEST way, of course, is to obey all traffic laws and focus on safely stopping, which is often the stated reason why Florida cameras were even installed.
Unfortunately, the Sunshine State has created confusion about its camera programs. While some municipalities appreciate the revenue Florida traffic cameras have generated, some citizens don’t like the idea of an unmanned machine watching them in the privacy of their car, and then issuing a huge fine without giving them a chance to legally defend themselves.
The topic is discussed at city, county and state levels, and the Florida Legislature has gone back and forth over the lengthy lists of pros and cons. Several lawsuits are pending and the Florida Supreme Court has also offered little in the way of firm rulings and guidance, but plans to tackle the issue in early 2018.
In the meantime, this has created a patchwork of areas and communities where there are plenty of active cameras (currently about 60); areas where there are cameras but they aren’t in use; and areas where cameras have been removed and locally banned.
Because each municipality controls its cameras and policies, it also can create all sorts of possible fines. Essentially, as one traffic magistrate pointed out, enforcement and size of the fine and penalties vary widely. Even the Miami Dade Clerk can dismiss an infraction if someone signs up for a defensive driving course.
The Miami Dade County area is a good example of the uncertainty of Florida traffic cams. In 2016, county commissioners approved a ban on the cameras in unincorporated areas, which includes the greater Miami area. It reversed a 2011 ruling allowing Miami traffic cameras, but they were never powered on. But 16 cities in the county now permit these.
Surrounding counties also has offering conflicting policies. In summer 2017, the cities of Pembroke Pines and Boynton Beach voted to reactivate cameras and begin ticketing drivers. Boynton Beach is the only one of 39 municipalities in Palm Beach County to activate these cameras.
Policies in other communities also vary. In 2016, Tampa traffic cameras were extended for two years, while the Jacksonville City Council voted to end its program in summer 2017. Orlando has allowed them and then banned them. St. Petersburg has banned theirs.
The Florida House approved a statewide ban on red light cameras in the 2017 session by 2021, but the bill died in the Senate. Lawmakers had mixed things to say about cameras. They lowered the number of pedestrian accidents but increased the number of rear-end accidents inside intersections, often triggered when people brake suddenly. Supporters of the cameras also say local cities should determine their own policies.
A similar bill is expected to be introduced for the 2018 session.
At the same time, the state’s judicial body is considering the constitutionality of receiving red light tickets. The Florida Supreme Court plans to hear arguments in February 2018.
This case revolves around how the City of Aventura uses cameras, while neighboring city Hollywood, doesn’t. The camera contractor is accused of reviewing footage to find possible violations, and then sending out tickets, which by law should be a task for law enforcement.
Until the matter is settled, Florida drivers, especially those enrolled in online traffic school and learning to drive, should be aware of red light ticket cameras still in operation through the state.