Red light cameras in St. Pete will stay, for now

06/06/13 Janelle Irwin
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St. Pete City Council scheduled a public hearing about whether or not to implement a controversial new rule on red light camera tickets. It would give drivers the chance to challenge a citation sooner, but resident Matt Florell who has long been critical of the program says it could also make it harder for drivers to win an appeal because there are very few checks on who can oversee the hearing.

“It could be a lower-level city employee, an electrical engineer from a code enforcement board or even the same officer that approved the citation in the first place. There’s no requirement that the hearing officer be fair or impartial as a judge.”

Under the current rules, drivers who are ticketed for running a red light are ticketed $158. They cannot appeal the citation until the fee has jumped to $264 after two months of non-payment. The new provision would allow drivers to appeal before the fine is increased, but if they lose the appeal the city could charge them extra fees. Based on new state legislation, if cities with red light cameras don’t implement the new appeals process, they have to kill their program entirely. But only three council members voted in favor of that – Steve Kornell, Leslie Curran and Wengay Newton. Bill Dudley was one of five to instead favor having a public hearing about what to do.

“I started teaching Driver’s Ed in 1970 and the same arguments they had then, they still present them today. All you do when you make changes like that – it’s very temporary – when you increase the time of the yellow, people will realize after a while that there is an increase in the time of the yellow ... you can shake your head all you want, but I have facts to back it up.”

Dudley was referring to increasing the time lights stay yellow. The city has been accused of shortening yellow times, making it easier to get caught running a light. City Council will hold a public hearing on June 20 discussing whether to implement the appeal procedure laid out by the state legislature.

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