NOTE: The following opinion editorial was submitted by: Leslie Blakey, Executive Director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running
–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–March 21, 2005–Florida’s Hispanic community must come to terms with the growing problem of red light running, a state and national safety issue that is needlessly causing the death and serious injury of thousands every year. In 2003, the Florida Highway Patrol reported that running red lights alone caused 8,900 collisions, 115 deaths, more than 10,000 injuries and $77 million in property damage.
Hispanic Americans in the United States are disproportionately the victims of traffic crashes on our roads. According to recent federal statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics from one to 44 years of age. Even more telling is that Hispanic children from 5 to12 years of age are 72 percent more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than non-Hispanic children.
A study released last year by a prominent national transportation research group found that rapid residential development means more and more Floridians are living on or near multi-lane highways with inadequate or nonexistent sidewalks and few crosswalks. That alone makes Florida an increasingly dangerous place to live for the many Latinos who, either by choice or economic situation, travel by bicycle or on foot. In Miami and Tampa, 59 percent of the pedestrian fatalities in 1999 occurred because people were trying to cross the street where there were no crosswalks.
Too many drivers do not consider running a red light to be a serious traffic offense and a danger to their fellow citizens. Consistent enforcement is necessary to deter people from making this dangerous and often deadly choice. One in three Americans knows someone who has been injured, someone who was killed, or both because of a red light runner. Red light running crash deaths are increasing three times faster than any other type of roadway fatality. In many cities, the yellow light has come to symbolize “hurry up” instead of “slow down.”
There is however, a way that Florida could begin to reduce aggressive driving behavior like red light running, and that is through the use of automated traffic enforcement technology.
Red light cameras, which are now in use in over 110 communities in 20 states and the District of Columbia, have led to significant decreases in intersection crashes and violations. Recent studies show that photo enforcement leads to a 25 to 30 percent reduction in intersection injury crashes.
Red light cameras supplement police work and allow law enforcement to focus on other crimes. Additionally, red light cameras capture and process a violation without a dangerous police pursuit. This technology is a valuable supplement to good traffic engineering as evidenced by the rapid expansion of this technology in areas that use red light camera technology.
There is another aspect of this technology that makes it of particular interest to Florida’s Hispanic community. A recent Texas state study conducted by a coalition of civil rights organizations found that Hispanics were searched by police 69 percent more often than Anglos after routine traffic stops.
Red light running enforcement technology is bias-free ¯ it does not record the faces, race or other characteristics of vehicle occupants. By enforcing the law without a traffic stop, red light cameras reduce the opportunity for “consent searches” based on “looking suspicious.” Most states only allow red light cameras to photograph the vehicle as it runs the red light and record the license plate to identify the owner. There can be no selective enforcement based upon race or any other factors.
There is one major obstacle to the use of this technology by Florida law enforcement agencies, — the state legislature has rejected several attempts to approve legislation authorizing the use of red light cameras. Legislation to allow red light cameras has been sponsored by Rep. Ron Reagan of Bradenton and Sen. Stephen Wise of Jacksonville. Florida’s Hispanic community needs to speak out and demand approval for this lifesaving technology which could save hundreds of Floridians from being killed or seriously injured by aggressive or inattentive drivers.
When combined with good engineering practices and strong public awareness and education programs, this method of enforcement is proven effective in preventing the crashes and the tragedies that all too often result from red light running. For more information please contact Jeff Agnew or Chris Galm at (202) 828-9100.
National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running
The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running is a national advocacy group guided by an independent advisory board that includes leaders from the fields of traffic safety, law enforcement, transportation engineering, health care and emergency medicine, as well as crash victims. More information on the Campaign can be found at http://www.stopredlightrunning.com.
Jeff Agnew or Chris Galm