Federal guidelines suggest communities determine why drivers are running red lights, instead of first installing red light cameras.


PINELLAS COUNTY, Florida - Acknowledging it had a safety problem at the intersection of Belcher Road and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, the City of Clearwater chose to install red light cameras instead of other recommended safety countermeasures, as federal guidelines suggest.

Now, following the May death of 70-year-old retired police officer and crossing guard Douglas Carey, the city and state will make some of those improvements. They include better signage, repainting lines, additional school bus stops and a flashing yellow light - all of which can contribute to intersection safety.

But federal guidelines implore communities to try countermeasures before they resort to cameras, including an engineering study "to determine the factors contributing to red-light running and to identify appropriate countermeasures that could be implemented to reduce the number of crashes resulting from red-light violations. Once identified, the appropriate effective countermeasures (engineering, education, and enforcement) should be considered in addressing the crash problem."

Clearwater officials said they did not believe any studies or specific intersection improvements were made prior to the 2011 decision to add red light cameras at two intersections. Florida Department of Transportation officials say they had not studied the intersection either.

But the rush to install cameras is certainly not limited to Clearwater. The Florida Legislature's nonpartisan Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA),released a report that indicated the problem is widespread:

"Although national and state transportation organizations strongly recommend the use of countermeasures, OPPAGA's survey results indicate that most (56%) respondents did not implement countermeasures prior to installing red light cameras."

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