Hillsborough County’s careless drivers seem to be getting the message. Citations for running red lights at six major intersections with cameras, including two in the Greater Brandon area, fell by 7.8 percent last year.
The year 2011 saw 28,119 citations issued for running red lights at the six intersections compared with 30,507 in 2010, records show, the first year the cameras went operational. That’s 2,384 fewer citations.
In Brandon, cameras are watching drivers 24 hours a day at the entrance to the Westfield Brandon mall, at Brandon Town Centre and Brandon Boulevard, and Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road.
The mall entrance accounts for 29.3 percent of red light violations in the county. That’s an average of 22 motorists running red lights every day at the popular intersection, making it the second most dangerous crossroads for red-light runners at intersections outfitted with cameras.
In fact, the Westfield Brandon entrance is very likely the worst offender when it comes to drivers who think yellow means hit the gas. It ranks second only to Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, which had 401 more red light citations last year. However, while the mall intersection has one camera, the Fletcher and Bruce B. Downs intersection is equipped with three.
“I think part of the reason that the Brandon intersection ranks so high is you have a lot of impatient shoppers who just don’t want to wait,” said Cpl. Troy Morgan, who oversees the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's red-light camera program.
Concerned about the number of violations at Brandon intersection, Morgan studied the traffic lights and asked county traffic engineers to install a backing plate on one set of lights there.
“The backing plate makes the light a lot more distinct for drivers exiting the mall in the middle lane and heading to Regency Square Plaza,” Morgan said.
Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road generated 2,546 red light citations in 2011, an average of almost seven red light violations a day. That’s 16 fewer citations than 2010.
By far the biggest improvement in drivers running red lights was at Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway, an intersection once notorious for traffic violations. Last year saw 2,759 citations compared with 7,233 in 2010, a massive 61.9 percent drop in the number of people running red lights.
RED-LIGHT CAMERA VIOLATIONS Intersection Number of Violations 2010 Number of Violations 2011 Percentage Change Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue 7,875 8,645 9.78% Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway 7,233 2,759 -61.86% Brandon Town Centre Drive and Brandon Boulevard (Westfield Brandon)
6,748 * 8,240 22.11% Waters Avenue and Anderson Road 5,418 5,132 -5.28% Bell Shoals Road and Bloomingdale Avenue 2,562 2,546 -0.62% Sligh Avenue and Habana Avenue 671 797 18.78% TOTAL 30,507 28,119 -7.83% Source: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office * Note: The red-light camera at Brandon Town Center was installed in April 2010.
Motorists caught running a red light pay a $158 fine. Of that, $75 goes to the county or city where the violation occurred with the remainder going to the state. (See: Ban the Cam? Red-Light Camera Enforcement Hits Home.)
The company that installed the cameras — American Traffic Solutions — is paid $4,750 per month, per camera.
Crashes have also decreased at the intersections overall since the cameras have been installed, accident reports show.
The six intersections reported 395 crashes in 2008, 275 crashes in 2009, 270 crashes in 2010 and 240 in 2011, according to sheriff’s office reports.
Public awareness of the cameras is a major factor in the decline in accidents and citations, Morgan said.
“We said from the beginning it would modify people’s behavior and that’s what is happening.”
Drivers are now behaving as if a patrol car is sitting at each intersection with the added advantage “that the cameras can catch more than one person at a time,” Morgan said. “I can pull over one driver for running a red light, but I can only deal with one car at a time.”
For those not sold on red light cameras — and that opposition includes a recent USF study that questioned the need for red light cameras — Morgan suggests a little YouTube.
“You can go the sheriff’s office website and watch the videos of drivers running red lights and judge for yourself," he said. "I think any reasonable person would see the need for the cameras after watching these videos."
Other county intersections could use red light cameras, Morgan said, “but that is not my decision. I wish the red light cameras were not necessary. The cameras would go away if people would just stop looking for excuses and just stop for the light.”
Morgan also has some simple advice for anyone who gets a ticket: obey traffic laws.
“The program doesn’t cost taxpayers. It is paid for by those who run the red lights, these are the people who fund the program. If they stop running red lights it the program wouldn’t exist. It would be one less responsibility for law enforcement, and we have other important issues we could allocate our resources to.”