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Local red-light camera tops county ticket list

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The red-light camera at the entrance to Westfield Brandon Mall on State Road 60 took the dubious distinction of first place for the number of tickets issued in 2013.

A camera at the main entrance to the largest mall serving Riverview and Brandon issues more citations for running red lights than anywhere else in the county, according to figures obtained by this newspaper.

The red-light camera at the entrance to Westfield Brandon Mall on State Road 60, popular as a cut-through route to U.S.  301 for some drivers, took the dubious distinction of first place for the number of tickets issued in 2013 with 6,250. It’s the third consecutive year the busy intersection has topped the ticketing list.

Drivers do, however, appear to be learning, if slowly. Last year was the first time in four years the amount of tickets issued at the intersection, one of the busiest in the county, dropped. Cameras at the mall’s entrance issued 9,794 tickets in 2012, some 8,244 in 2011 and 6,748 in 2010, according to a report from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

A number of factors explain why the camera at S.R. 60 and Grand Regency Boulevard has topped the ticket charts for the third year, said Cpl. Adam Brescia, who oversees the red-light program for the sheriff’s office.

“Primarily it’s because people are using it as a cut-through, plus it’s a transient area right there by the interstate and it’s the only large mall in that part of the county,” Brescia said.

Red-light cameras promote crashes, say opponents, because drivers concentrate on the light change and don’t pay attention to other vehicles. The camera at the mall entrance, however, shows crashes have actually gone down. There were 24 crashes within 100 feet of the intersection in 2011, then 15 in 2012 and 12 in 2013.

Red-light cameras are under increased scrutiny locally and statewide. Tampa voted to get rid of the city’s 51 red-light cameras, although that decision was later reversed. The initial 4-3 vote to ax the cameras came on the heels of a similar vote in St. Petersburg weeks earlier.

Removing the cameras would be a mistake, said Brescia, who cites the low number of repeat offenders as proof that drivers are changing their ways.

Of 26,048 red-light camera citations issued in 2012, only 48 drivers got more than one ticket.

“I know it’s changed my own driving,” said Brescia, “because I know I will have to pay a ticket. Although I know there are not cameras at other intersections, when I see the light turn yellow, I am preparing to stop. It has changed my behavior, and that goes for everyone else.”

When a vehicle runs a red light, cameras record the vehicle and its license plate. Law-enforcement officials then review the evidence and decide whether a violation is warranted. The citations are mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner.

Motorists might avoid getting nabbed on the scene after running a red light, but the law makes sure they pay up with a $158 fine.  Of that, $75 goes to the county or city where the violation occurred, and the remainder goes to the state. No points are assessed on a driver’s license, and motorists can appeal the tickets in traffic court.

County drivers have been navigating red-light cameras since Dec. 29, 2009, when the cameras were installed at six county intersections, including the mall entrance and at Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals Road. Cameras also monitor traffic at Sligh and Habana avenues, Waters Avenue at Dale Mabry Highway and Anderson Road and Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

The company that installed the cameras — American Traffic Solutions in Hillsborough County — is paid $4,750 per month, per camera. The company maintains 10 cameras at the six intersections. 

Terrie, who did not want her last name used, said she fell afoul of the red-light camera at Bell Shoals and Bloomingdale but had no problem with her ticket.

She said, “It was completely deserved, as I was inattentive and thought the arrow would stay green longer than it did. The photos were amazingly clear, and I had no reasonable arguments. It taught me to be more attentive.”

Another motorist, James, said, “I now try to be a better red-light stopper, but now I am catching myself looking for those lights instead of focused on the intersection.” James also had to pay a $158 fine.

Jim Dowd, a Ruskin resident, has never been ticketed by a red-light camera and has a simple solution for fellow drivers.

“We should all stop on red and wait for a green light. It might inconvenience some people enough to get rid of the politicians who have had a hand in installing these things. Meantime, it will prevent many drivers behind me at the red light from chancing a right-on-red ticket, too.”

There may be some hope for local drivers looking to avoid the camera at the mall. The Gornto Lake Road extension, opened last July, gives South County drivers a straight shot to SR 60 from U.S. 301 and Bloomingdale Avenue, avoiding the mall completely.

In all, 21 states and more than 50 Florida counties and cities use the cameras. Statewide, 404 intersections are equipped with red-light cameras, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Watch videos of local red-light runners on YouTube by searching for “Red Light Runners Hillsborough.”

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