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Sarasota to add more red light cameras | News

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Sarasota to add more red light cameras
News

Sarasota, Florida - Red light cameras: some cities are putting them in, while others are taking them out. But in one Bay area community, law enforcement officers see the cameras as a way to save lives.

Sarasota Police Officer John Lake says the pictures don't lie. "It's clear, very clear video... the caption on the plate to who owns the vehicle," says Officer Lake.

The intersection at Tuttle Avenue and Bahia Vista is reportedly the city's sixth most dangerous intersection, with 54 crashes in a 22-month period. The intersection is also the first in the city to have a red light camera.

The camera captures traffic heading south bound on Tuttle. The camera gives officers a 12 second video clip they can slow down, and three still images with data of how fast the car was traveling and how long the light had been red when it crossed the intersection. Officer Lake pulls up a video clip from earlier this month.

"The Kia is right here coming into the screen. Clearly the light is red. You will see the Kia runs through the intersection," says Officer Lake.

The driver of the Kia is one of 109 motorists cited so far this month.

Officer John Lake reviews the videos and pictures. He says his citations are clear cut, like one where the driver turns left on red. The camera's data shows the light had been red for 65 seconds, and the light turned green just three seconds after the driver made the turn on red.

"If they had waited three seconds, they would have gotten a green light," says Officer Lake. The driver would have also saved $158, the cost of the ticket. But Lake says the system is forgiving.

"Everybody thinks they are going to get a violation for being underneath the light when it turns red. That's not the way it's designed," says Officer Lake. He says a motorist standing in the middle of the intersection waiting to turn left will not be ticketed if the light turns red. The camera's sensor will not be triggered, because he's passed the white stop bar on the street.  

"It's designed to give the motorist more leeway. They have to be before the white stop bar when the light turns red, that's what we are looking for," explains Officer Lake.

In the same video clip with the Kia, a white work truck crosses the white stop bar as the light turns red, and a white car stops on top of the bar. "If I was at that intersection with my patrol vehicle, the only person getting the ticket south bound on Tuttle would be the Kia," says Officer Lake.

This month, Sarasota Police have thrown out 98% of the cases where motorists were turning right on a red light, even if they didn't stop -- that's 98 of 101 cases. Officer Lake says those motorists who roll through the red light as they turn right are cited if they violate someone's right of way.

Officer Lake pulls up one video clip of a vehicle turning right cuts off a motorist trying to turn left.

"That car was trying to make that turn cut off the other car. That is a violation. He was obstructing that car's right of way," says Officer Lake.

Officers say the goal of the cameras is to make dangerous intersections safer. Some reports say it seems to be working. One report says injury crashed at intersections with cameras dropped 25 percent.

Officer Lake says, "It's not about the money, it's more about the violation of the right of way and making it safer."

The City of Sarasota keeps half of the money from the $158 ticket.  If you are ticketed for running a red light, you have 30 days to pay it and if you have any doubt, you can see the same video and pictures of the violation.

If you try fighting the ticket and lose, the cost could rise to $700.

Officer Lake says the ticket does not carry any points.

Sarasota City Officials will be installing red light cameras at three other intersections in the next two weeks. Those intersections are Fruitville Road and US 301, Fruitville Road and Tuttle Avenue and University Parkway and US 41.

The city's 10 most dangerous intersections based on the number of crashes between January 2009 and October 2010 are:

  1. Fruitville Rd. / Beneva Rd. - 95 crashes
  2. Bee Ridge Rd./ S Tamiami Trail - 73 crashes
  3. S Tamiami Trail/ Bahia Vista St. - 71 crashes
  4. N Washington Blvd/Fruitville Rd - 59 crashes
  5. N Tamiami Trail/ University Pkwy - 55 crashes
  6. Fruitville Rd. / N Tuttle Ave & S Tuttle Ave/ Bahia Vista St. - 54 crashes
  7. N Washington Blvd/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way - 52 crashes
  8. S Tamiami Trail/Waldemere St. - 48 crashes
  9. S Tamiami Trail /Waldemere St. - 46 crashes
  10. Fruitville Rd / N Lockwood Ridge Rd. - 44 crashes
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