Red Light Cameras and Turning Right on Red

The Mark Wandall Act, passed by the Florida legislature in 2010, states that officers should not ticket drivers through the use of red light cameras who make rolling right hand turns at intersections with stop lights if the turn is made in “a careful and prudent” manner. A recent report by WTSP Channel 10 News in Tampa identifies some issues with this language and how some police agencies might be using this law to their advantage solely in an effort to increase revenues. According to the report, an estimated $24 million of the $101 million collected in red light camera tickets were issued to drivers making rolling right hand turns. However, 78% of Florida’s police agencies do not have a definition of what is a “careful and prudent” right hand turn at a red light. This has resulted in drivers who make a rolling right receiving the same ticket and fine as a driver who totally ignores any duty to stop at a red light before turning right. It would seem as if drivers are at the mercy of the individual officer of the individual agency who is reviewing the tapes and this doesn’t sit well with many Florida citizens. It is their concern that while only 0.4% of accidents in Florida were caused by a right hand turn on red, 40% of red light camera tickets in 2012 were issued to drivers making that maneuver. The number has dropped to around 20% so far for 2013. Some citizens argue that such a low-risk driving action should not be punished so frequently and subjected to such broad interpretations of the law by the police.

On the other hand, Florida is number one in the country for pedestrian and cyclist deaths and right hand turns require a driver to safely drive through potentially two cross walks when making this kind of turn. This does make a right turn dangerous in many situations. In taking into consideration these two contrasting views, the legislature changed some of the law to state that if a driver comes to a complete stop before making a right hand turn, they cannot be ticketed through a camera, regardless of where they stop in conjunction with the stop bar. This could help in cutting down in the number of tickets issued for a simple driving move, while still emphasizing the importance to come to a complete stop and looking out for car, bike, and foot traffic, before turning right on red. Florida law does require that drivers come to a complete stop at the marked stop line before making a right on red. The important thing to take away from this story is to always be careful and take it slow when making a red on right- you do not want to cause an accident or get a ticket from a camera or real life officer.

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