MANATEE COUNTY, Florida - The region's strictest enforcer of red light camera tickets may get even stricter, according to emails obtained by 10 Investigates.
An assistant county attorney researching if commissioners could ease up aggressive enforcement of "rolling right" violations at red light camera (RLC) intersections indicated there should potentially be even less leniency, even though state law suggests safe drivers should not be ticketed for safe right turns on red, even if they fail to come to an absolute stop before proceeding.
Over the last year, 10 Investigates has shown how automated "rolling right" violations have been used by communities to rake in profits, even though the maneuver is generally considered safe and low-risk. But few communities issue as many right turn violations as Manatee County.
Most neighboring cities and counties have more lenient interpretations of "careful and prudent," the threshold the state's RLC law sets for issuing a violation.
In an email to Board of County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle, an assistant county attorney wrote:
"The determination as to what constitutes a careful and prudent manner for making a right turn must be made by a traffic infraction enforcement officer based upon review of the video before issuing a notice of violation or a traffic citation. However, neither statute cited above for the underlying violation permits a 'rolling right turn' through a red light without stopping at the intersection."
The opinion continues to tell Bustle the "requirement to stop at a red light before making a turn applies no matter how careful the vehicle is being operated," indicating the county could ignore the "careful and prudent" language in state law.
However, numerous lawmakers who helped craft the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, named after a Manatee County resident killed by a red light-runner, told 10 Investigates Manatee County is misinterpreting the law.
Lawmakers and residents alike also told 10 Investigates they were concerned what kind of reputation the county would develop from the aggressive right turn ticketing.
"I think it's doing a lot of harm," said Bradenton resident and frequent camera critic Steve Albritton. "I think it's creating a perception of Manatee County as being a place you want to avoid."
10 Investigates has also previously reported Manatee County ignored many crash stats when choosing RLC intersections, instead letting camera vendor Xerox suggest interesections that would create the most profit.
"I want commissioners to know most people in this county try to drive in a safe and prudent manner," said Albritton. "We don't need to be policing perfection. That does not contribute to the safety of the drivers in this community."