Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Help Me Howard: Red Light Cameras
Getting a ticket is no fun, but getting a traffic ticket in South Florida from a camera watched by a person in Arizona can be irritating. It's happening all over South Florida because it's making cities tons of money, but is it legal? That's why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Miami Gardens Drive and 441 has not been a kind intersection for Rolande Latimore.
Rolande Latimore: "Two years ago my son was murdered. The satellite shows on his cell phone that was the last place he made a phone call."
Knowing Willie Latimore Jr. last spoke to someone at this intersection is devastating to Rolande, and what happened here earlier this year doesn't compare to losing a child, but it certainly irritates her.
Rolande Latimore: "When I got to 441, I stopped, the light was red, I make a full stop. I look, and there were no signs saying, 'Do not turn on red,' so I proceed to turn right on 441."
Rolande went on about her business, then, a month later, the mail came.
Rolande Latimore: "I receive a citation for $125 that I failed to stop. Failure to stop in a red zone."
Drivers may not know it, but Miami Gardens has installed cameras at two intersections in the city, big brother with a badge constantly snapping pictures and videotaping drivers, but Rolande says this picture proves she hit her brakes.
Rolande Latimore: "I did stop, I did stop. My red light, the picture they showed me showed that my red light was on, I did stop."
Rolande then went to court to fight the $125 ticket. Once there, the traffic magistrate pulled out the video of the infraction. You look at it and decide.
Did Rolande stop at the red light before turning?
Rolande Latimore: "I watched the video with the judge. I show him that I stopped, you see the red light, my foot on the brake. I have stopped. He said, 'Ma'am, I just find you guilty of running a red light in a red zone."
According to the city manager, these cameras have generated more than one million dollars so far this year. Cash machines for the government, large headaches for the drivers who get caught.
Rolande Latimore: "It's a rip-off. It's a rip-off because a lot of people don't know that the cameras are there."
OK, Howard, it was a camera, not a cop catching Rolande. Is it legal for cities to use cameras to catch drivers?
Howard Finkelstein: "The State of Florida does not allow you to be charged with a traffic infraction based on a camera. It has to be witnessed by a police officer. However, some cities are trying to get around that by passing their own law that says they can do it, and don't be misled, these cameras are there for one reason, to generate money for the city."
The city's traffic program is run by an Arizona company. Of the million dollars they generated, Miami Gardens got $704,000. American Traffic Solutions got $330,000 for monitoring and picking out pictures of the alleged violators. They then send it to Miami Gardens where a civilian decides who gets the citation. The city manager also told us the cameras are not there to make money, rather to make the streets safer, but if you don't pay the fine, the city can't stop you from driving.
Howard Finkelstein: "Since this ticket was issued under a city law, they can't suspend your license. In fact, they can't even assess any points on your license, but if you don't pay, be aware the city can sue you for the $125."
Since this is not a moving violation, it won't count against Ronlande's driving record, meaning, technically, she still has a perfect driving record.
Rolande Latimore: "I worked for the post office for 24 years. I was always awarded for safe driver. I have a certificate from Geico car insurance for safe driver."
Well, Miami Gardens is not alone. Dozens of cities are doing the same thing to generate money or as they claim, make the streets safer. However, one man is suing Aventura to stop these cameras. If he wins, the cameras will be turned off and cities may have to pay back a lot of money.
Lights, camera, no satisfaction? Then, picture this, send us a snapshot of your situation, and hopefully, in a flash you'll be fine.