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Boynton Beach city leaders to discuss eliminating red-light cameras

Questions over legalities and safety benefits
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Posted at 6:44 PM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 04:13:36-04

UPDATE

Boynton Beach Commissioners voted Tuesday night 3 to 2 to keep red light cameras.  Click here for full story.

EARLIER STORY:

Leaders in Boynton Beach on Tuesday night debated getting rid of red light cameras.

Boynton Beach is the only Palm Beach County city still using cameras to mail tickets to drivers seen running red lights.

“I was either going to slam the brakes on and potentially get hit by somebody behind me, or I was going to go ahead and go through what I thought was a yellow light,” Michael Mariano explained.

Turns out the Delray Beach man ran a red light that rainy night nearly two years ago. He got a ticket in the mail a few weeks later.

But it didn't cost him at thing. Mariano was one of the first red light violators from Boynton Beach to have his ticket dismissed.

Last year, magistrates and a county judge ruled Boynton Beach’s process of issuing tickets from red light cameras wasn't legal. It’s the same ruling the 4th District Court of Appeals concluded in a case based on the way Hollywood handled tickets from its system.

In August, 2015, Boynton Beach city leaders tweaked the process, keeping the cameras running.
Over the next ten months, city documents show the cameras generated about $350,000.

“It’s very possible the state Supreme Court could find the system is flawed,” said Ted Hollander, who runs The Ticket Clinic law firm.

He said the 2nd and 3rd District Courts of Appeals, which oversee Hillsborough and Miami-Dade Counties, are currently weighing the same question the 4th District ruled on. Early on, the 3rd District has sided with cities, allowing them to use cameras to issues tickets.

Hollander said he has 203 clients waiting to challenge Boynton Beach’s new, tweaked red light process in court. But the Palm Beach County judge isn’t hearing the cases until those other Appeals Courts reach a ruling.

“The program is more about money and less about safety,” opined Hollander.

Studies vary on how effective the cameras are across the country.

In 2005, the Federal Highway Administration found the number of rear-end car crashes is higher at intersections with red light cameras.

Last month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the number of fatal car crashes increased once cities removed red light cameras. 

A memo from the Boynton Beach police department dated July 30, 2015, explained the number of crashes increased during the months when the city was tweaking its rules and not issuing tickets.

Charlotte Dowdell said having an extra set of eyes on eight Boynton Beach intersections is a good thing.

“If you broke the law, you broke the law,” she pointed out. “I see a lot of people going through red lights and I think they deserve a ticket. I think it's great.”

City commissioners will meet at 6:30 tonight to decide whether questions about safety and legal battles are worth the revenue.