The Florida legislature passed changes to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which is the law that pertains to the red light photo enforcement program. If the governor signs the bill, several changes will go into effect on July 1st. Here are some of the most notable:
1. Those who receive a Notice of Violation (NOV) will now have 60 days rather than 30 days to respond.
2. If the vehicle owner fills out an affidavit naming another person as the driver of the vehicle, that person will now be issued a NOV with a $158 fine rather than a Uniform Traffic Citation (UTC) with a $264 fine.
3. The “right on red” language has been clarified in the law. GPD will amend enforcement to comply with the new language, which states that it is not a violation if a vehicle stops at any point after the stop bar but prior to completing the turn. We will also increase our trigger speed from 12 to 15 miles per hour, which means that any vehicle entering the intersection at this speed and then failing to stop at any point during the turn will be issued a NOV.
4. There is now an official grievance process for those who receive a NOV. Previously, anyone wishing to appeal would have to ignore the NOV, which would prompt the issuance of a UTC with a higher fine. Under the previous arrangement, only a UTC could be appealed.
5. Under the new law, appeals of NOV’s will be heard by a local hearing officer. In Gulfport, we have made arrangements to use the code enforcement magistrate, who is Gulfport resident and attorney James Thaler.
6. If the magistrate finds the party guilty, then the original $158 fine will be assessed, along with court costs. The law allows up to $250 in court costs to be charged, but we will likely ask for no more than $100. We want to encourage people to use this process, so we don’t want the total fine to be higher than that for a UTC, which is $264.
7. Guilty parties who do not pay the fines assessed by the magistrate (or file an appeal to the circuit court within a designated time) will have their vehicle registration suspended. This means that corporate owners can no longer get away scot free. Under the previous law, only drivers licenses could be suspended, and since those are issued to individuals, businesses were often ignoring their NOV’s.
These new procedures put Florida more in line with how other states operate similar programs. I believe this is a much more fair and balanced approach, allowing everyone their due process rights while ensuring that cities are not overburdened with costs.
I have previously reported to city council and in this forum that injury crashes significantly decreased in Gulfport following the implementation of this program. I have also provided financial data indicating that the program covers its own costs but does not generate significant revenue for the city (approximately $25,000 net estimated in 2012).