At its Sept. 16 meeting, the Ocoee City Commission plans to discuss whether to continue fining drivers who make illegal right-hand turns at the six Ocoee intersections that have red-light cameras.
Such violations occur when a driver rolls through the turn without first stopping at the red light.
At the Aug. 19 commission meeting, the commission voted 4-1 to extend the contract with American Traffic Solutions —the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that provides the cameras — for another two years, to Dec. 2, 2016. Commissioner Rusty Johnson voted “no.”
“I feel the right-turn on red (violation) has become too much of an easy way to give a ticket,” Johnson said. “I have a problem with the red light camera on a right-hand turn.”
Commissioners later agreed to bring back this issue next month.
The city began using red light cameras in July 2009. Since then, Mayor Scott Vandergrift has been cited twice for red light infractions.
“We all drive mindlessly,” Vandergrift said at the meeting. “I’m one of them. I got caught.”
He said one of the biggest complaints he hears from the community is about drivers speeding through neighborhoods.
Commissioner Joel Keller said he wants to stop accidents caused by people driving straight through red lights.
But, “The right turn on red, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s not as flagrant and not as serious (as straight-shot red light runners). With the right hand turns, they are slowing down and looking for traffic.”
Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen, however, voiced support for continuing to fine drivers who make illegal right hand turns. She recalled how a driver who was turning right at a city intersection while talking on a cell phone nearly hit her as she was walking.
Some drivers making right-hand turns on red “look for cars, but not pedestrians,” Wilsen said.
Get caught: pay up
A driver who is caught running a red light — either by flying through an intersection or making a right hand turn without stopping first — could receive a $158 fine. Of that, the state of Florida receives $87 and Ocoee receives $71.
“If you don’t pay the $158 within the first 30 days, it becomes a uniform traffic citation, and then you have to deal with the state,” City Manager Rob Frank said Aug. 21. “It becomes an actual traffic ticket, and the fine becomes $277.”
The city has collected about $950,000 in fines so far this fiscal year, Frank said. Almost half of the total, or $456,000, is paid to American Traffic Solutions for the city’s eight red light cameras, at a rate of $4,750 per camera per month.
The remainder of the fine revenue is put in the city’s general fund.The state’s share of the money is used for research to cure paralysis.
“We have to run the whole program,” Frank said about the camera system. “We have police review the tickets. A lot of them are dismissed when an officer looks at it. We give (red light runners) the benefit of the doubt and when it’s a close call, we usually let it slide.”
Ocoee has eight red light cameras stationed at six intersections:
• North- and southbound Maguire Road at State Road 50 (Colonial Drive)
• Northbound Blackwood Avenue at S.R. 50
• Northbound Clarke Road at A.D. Mims Road
• Southbound Clarke Road at White Road
• East- and westbound State Road 438 (Silver Star Road) at Clarke Road
• Northbound Ocoee-Apopka Road at S.R. 438