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Red Light Cameras or Distracted Driving You Decide

Red Light Cameras or Distracted Driving You Decide

Red light cameras in Florida may come to a House vote in the Florida Legislature today.  The controversial issue of red light cameras has inspired impassioned debate and the fate of the camera system lies in the balance.  Proponents of red light cameras argue that they save lives and provide an incentive for drivers to avoid running red lights.  Opponents counter that the cameras are primarily a revenue generating source for Florida’s cities and towns.

Joe Henderson noted in his Florida Politics blog that “Red-light cameras, on the other hand, appear to contribute to crashes as well as being the aforementioned cash grab. The News Service of Florida reported in a four-year study of 148 intersections with cameras, across the state, crashes increased by more than 10 percent.”  Henderson’s point is hard to dismiss especially given his premise that the real culprit is distracted driving, particularly distracted driving that comes from texting.  The authors wonders why legislators are wasting so much time, energy and money on the red light cameras when the real issue concerns the issue of distracted driving.  There are 46,000 Florida car accidents attributable to distracted driving.  That accounts for 12% of all the car crashes in the Sunshine State.  In spite of this, police officers can’t ticket a texting driver unless the officer can stop the offending driver for another offense.

Texting while driving is a ubiquitous problem not only reserved to young drivers.  I’ve witnessed older adults texting while driving on many occasions.  If this is such a big problem, why aren’t legislators focused on making texting while driving a primary offense with stiff penalties?  It seems to me that discussion concerning red light cameras could be tabled in order to deal with the more pressing issue-texting while driving.

“Distracted driving is extremely risky behavior that not only puts drivers and passengers in danger, but others out on the road as well,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Focused attention on driving increases your reaction time to dangerous driving situations, helps to prevent crashes overall and saves lives.”
The three categories of driver distractions are visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) and cognitive (thinking about anything other than driving). Texting requires all three categories,making it one of the most dangerous distracted driving behaviors. However, texting is not the only driver distraction. Distractions can include talking on a cell phone, putting on makeup, reaching to comfort a child in the back seat, eating, tuning the radio, checking a GPS navigation device or even daydreaming.  Almost 20,000 drivers under 30 were involved in a crash in 2015 in Florida from driving distracted. The age group with the largest number of distracted driving crashes was 20–24 year-olds (17.8 percent), followed by 25–29 year-olds (14.3 percent) and then 15–19 year-olds (11.6 percent).The Florida Legislature should be focusing on issues that impact the lives and safety of Floridians and not wasting time and money on red light cameras.

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