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Student Life

Red light cameras cause controversy

The densely packed streets surrounding the University of South Florida community are visited daily by thousands of car, bus and motorcycle drivers, constantly wary, on-guard and prepared to slam on their brakes.

The reason for this vigilant behavior can be attributed to the fear of a pricey punishment, a penalty of $158. Vehicle operators pose the risk of receiving this penalty when running red lights at an intersection where a camera is present.

“If you don’t pay it within the 30 days, the price of the ticket jumps up a good amount,” said Frank Harned, a corporal at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

After this 30-day mark, the fine increases substantially to $253.

Red light cameras (RLC) have legally been used in Florida since July of 2010, when a state law went into effect allowing the new traffic enforcements. These cameras are now present at more than twenty known Tampa intersections. In the city of Temple Terrace, the monthly red light camera report indicates 668 violations issued in March 2012.

The USF area seems to be a hot spot for these cameras. RLC locations near the campus include the intersection of Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, the intersection of Fowler Avenue and 56th Street and the intersection of I-275 and Fletcher Avenue.

Serena Yeager, a USF sophomore, said she has friends who have received these tickets and often warn her about them.

“I think they could potentially make the road more dangerous,” she said. “Drivers might be paying more attention to avoiding the ticket than what’s going on around them.”

In 2008, USF’s College of Public Health concluded in a controversial study that these cameras are a hazard, contradicting the belief that they make the roads safer. The study was published in the Florida Public Health Review. USF researchers claimed that the previous information gathered in favor of the cameras used flawed methods.

“I definitely think there are pros and cons,” said Ryan Ortega, a public health graduate student. “It motivates people to be more mindful of laws, but it could also put people at a greater risk.”

Many citizens try to appeal these tickets because they see them as unconstitutional and unfair.

“It’s better than being pulled over by an actual police officer,” Harned said. “The ticket is cheaper.”

The Corporal Harned said that although many people try to fight tickets issued from red light cameras, the attempt is almost always futile.


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