City raises red-light fines

Winter Park and Maitland have been slow to implement camera programs.

Winter Park and Maitland have been slow to implement camera programs.

Isaac Babcock

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Winter Park’s red-light camera system may soon be a reality after the City Commission voted to move forward with the project on Monday night.

“This is about making our streets safer,” Mayor Ken Bradley said.

The vote came in response to a vote by the Florida Legislature on May 12 that set up rules governing the implementation and operation of red-light camera systems statewide, granting the state power over municipalities. The vote in Tallahassee also ensured that the state would receive money from every infraction fine collected.

In Winter Park, that fine will be much higher than originally projected, coming in at $158 for every time a red light is run in the city. And those fines won’t necessarily be paid by the driver guilty of the infraction. The owner of the vehicle that trips the cameras will be responsible for paying up within 30 days, unless they can prove that someone else was driving their car.

As had been previously passed by the Commission, the penalty will be the fine and nothing more. Unlike when a police officer cites a driver for running a red light, the penalty from a camera will not bring with it points on the driver’s license and the frequently consummate insurance rate hike.

Where that fine will go has changed substantially in the past year. When the Commission first passed a resolution regarding a desire to implement the cameras, the State Legislature hadn’t weighed in on the issue.

At the time, Bradley indicated that the city had higher priorities.

“It’s certainly not in our strategic plan,” Bradley said after a vote in January 2009. “I think it’s important but it’s not on our radar screen.”

Maitland Mayor Doug Kinson also indicated his city would be waiting to install a system until it met the city’s requirements.

“There’s kinks that need to be worked out,” he said.

Maitland aligned its red-light camera ordinance with the state legislation last month.

Since passing its own laws regarding the system, the state has taken more control over how they’ll be implemented and enforced, explicitly writing into law that state law will immediately override local laws regarding the cameras.

The state will also take healthy chunk of the money from every fine, funneling more than 44 percent of each fine toward the state’s general budget fund. Another 47.5 percent will go to Winter Park. Only the remaining 8.2 percent of the fine will go toward the state’s Department of Health Administrative Trust Fund and Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Fund.

“I think we were more concerned about safety than we were about where the money was going,” Commissioner Phil Anderson said.

None of that money will go toward the red-light camera company itself. That law was established with the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act at the state level, prohibiting camera companies from receiving payment based on fines or the number of violations detected by the cameras.

The $158 figure is the minimum that red-light runners would be fined. If they fight the charge and lose, they may be forced to pay administrative costs as well. Those would go to Winter Park to pay for handling the hearings.