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Southwest Florida points cameras at red light violators, aims to reduce accidents

The dangerous and deadly business of running red lights at Southwest Florida intersections is increasingly caught on camera – a costly, if not fatal error for the driver and evidence increasingly used in court by criminal and accident lawyers.

Lee County is testing a camera at Colonial Boulevard and Summerlin Road, The News-Press reports, and cameras at other intersections could be on the way.

Orlando and Collier County, including the City of Naples, already use the cameras and have written local laws to get around a state prohibition against ticketing offenders based on video evidence (current state law only allows such ticketing for toll cheaters).

The accident attorneys and staff at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers urge motorists to use caution at intersections. The firm has handled hundreds of cases where motorists are seriously injured or killed in an intersection accident because an offender was in a hurry and failed to stop at a red light or stop sign.

Lee County will use the camera to determine how many tickets it could issue and how many extra staff members it would take to process violators. State lawmakers are likely to take up the cause of allowing tickets to be issued this year, even without a special ordinance.

Detractors point out that vehicle owners would get the ticket in the mail, regardless of who was caught on camera driving. And there is some data to suggest that rear-end collisions have increased at intersections where cameras have been installed.

But the deadly issue is getting increased attention. Several years ago, the state doubled the cost of red-light tickets and passed a substantial portion of the proceeds on to trauma centers, including Lee Memorial Hospital, which deal with the carnage left in the wake of someone in too big of a hurry to pay attention to one of driving’s most basic safety requirements.

More than 13,000 crashes were reported at Lee County intersections during the last three years.

A recent nationwide study of deadly crashes at traffic signals found nearly 1 in 4 failed to obey the light, injuring more than 144,000 people nationwide in 2006. Nearly half the fatalities caused by red-light runners are pedestrians and vehicle passengers, according to information gathered by Jay Anderson, a retired Fort Myers-area paramedic and founder of “Stay Alive … Just Drive,” a campaign that urges motorists to concentrate on driving and avoid distractions like cell phones.

A 2007 California study found red-light runners were three times more likely to have multiple speeding convictions, were less likely to use seatbelts and drove smaller and older vehicles, further increasing their chance of serious injury or death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports red-light cameras are effective in reducing crashes. Currently 22 states have either passed legislation or are considering laws to permit ticketing of red-light runners caught on camera.

In Florida the STOP Red Light Running Coalition is leading the way in pushing lawmakers to act. The organization contends red-light cameras could cut accidents in half and reports that urban drivers are more at risk of a collision caused by someone who fails to obey a traffic signal than from any other type of crash.

Supporters contend a large majority of the public favors using the cameras to ticket offenders. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a nationwide survey in 2002 and found that 3 out of 4 drivers favored the measure.

In the unfortunate event that you or someone you love is seriously injured or killed by someone who has failed to obey traffic laws, there are certain things you can do to help protect your rights.

The pedestrian and bicycle injury lawyers and car accident and motorcycle accident attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, offer free appointments to discuss your rights at any of the firm’s offices located throughout Southwest Florida, including Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte, Sebring and Venice.