TAMPA BAY, Florida -- A majority of cities and counties with red light cameras that have reported crashes at monitored intersections have either held steady or increased since installing the cameras. The Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) compiled the data in late 2014, but chose not to include it in its annual review of Florida's red light camera (RLC) program.
10 Investigates first reported in January how this year's DHSMV annual RLC summary failed to address crash stats for the first time. But public records obtained by 10 Investigates reveal the agency conducted an analysis and just chose not to include it.
According to agency reports, 24 of 49 cities and counties that reported crash stats last year indicated "sideswipe" crashes went up at red light camera intersections since installing the technology. Five municipalities reported no change, while only 20 reported decreases since installing the cameras.
And 30 of 47 cities and counties reported "rear-end" collisions increased at RLC intersections after the cameras were installed; only 14 reported decreases, while 3 reported no change.
Meanwhile, most cities and counties reported that crashes at their intersections not monitored by cameras have dropped in recent years.
"I don't think you can make a statement to the public about the safety value of the red light cameras based on the data we have before us," said DHSMV employee David Westberry, who recently told the State Senate Transportation Committee the crash data was inconclusive.
A DHSMV spokesman echoed the sentiments to 10 Investigates, saying the crash analysis--which was included in previous drafts of the annual report, but not the final--was omitted because it was simply inconclusive.
[To view the Crash Analysis on a mobile device, CLICK HERE]
The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, which regulates red light camera use in Florida, requires cities and counties that utilize the cameras to submit annual crash data to the state. It also requires the DHSMV to submit recommendations to legislators and the governor on how to improve the RLC program.
However, 10 Investigates has reported for two years that many cities haven't been able to provide the data - and some, including Lakeland, have ignored the state's surveys altogether. Yet there have been no repercussions for those cities, and they continue to ticket tens of thousands of drivers a year.
"We are raising $100 million a year and we can't look constituents in the eye and tell them we're making them any safer," said State Sen. Jeff Brandes, (R-St. Petersburg), who has twice tried unsuccessfully to ban RLC from Florida.
This year, Brandes is again proposing changes to the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, including penalties for cities and counties that don't submit the required stats to the state.
Brandes also requested DHSMV to re-write its initial RLC report in January since it didn't include any crash analysis or recommendations.
Two weeks ago, the DHSMV released its updated report. The suggestions were limited to asking cities and counties to start following the mandatory reporting guidelines on crash stats so the agency can better-track the technology's value.
The DHSMV called the stats "inconclusive," and ran a second report based on state crash reporting. While this report showed fatalities were down at RLC intersections, overall crashes were up. The agency called this report inconclusive as well.
Even if it's not conclusive, the report is certainly unflattering for RLC supporters. With crashes on U.S. roads generally on the decline, critics will latch onto the suggestion that cameras are causing more accidents than they are preventing.
And Brandes, public enemy no. 1 of the RLC industry in Florida, is particularly peeved about the lack of transparency in the state's initial Jan. 1 report.
"I (am) shocked (the crash) information wasn't included, and obviously, I'll be working very hard in the next few weeks to find out why it wasn't included."