Tampa wonders if red light cameras really prevent accidents

Tampa is not sure if its red light cameras are accomplishing their stated purpose of preventing accidents.

The City of Tampa has 55 red light cameras at 24 intersections, the largest such program in the region. When drivers run red lights at the intersections, cameras capture their image and they receive tickets in the mail. The city faces numerous lawsuits over the cameras. While the city collects substantial revenue from red light camera tickets, including $311,360 in June 2015 alone, it is unclear whether the program actually prevents accidents.

The lack of clarity is due in part to the failure to city staff to deliver crash data requested by city council members. A report by city staff on the red light camera program compared only the first and second quarters of 2015, which may be statistically irrelevant, and it did not include specific data on rear-end collisions requested by city council members.

Critics of the red light camera program have questioned its fairness and effectiveness. According to news reports, Tampa and other cities issued tickets based on unfairly short yellow lights before the state mandated longer intervals at intersections with cameras. State law requires cities to submit annual crash data to help track the effectiveness of the cameras, but Tampa failed to do so in 2014.