OPINION: Three reasons why red-light cameras should stay in Manatee

·3 min read

The Manatee County commissioners recently signaled their support for ending the county’s red-light camera program in October, which is when a contract with the county’s equipment vendor is set to expire.

More: No more red-light cameras in Manatee County? Program set to expire in October

Sigh.

Actually, the commissioners' move isn't all that surprising given that only several months ago, they voted to suspend any efforts to issue tickets to motorists making illegal right turns at intersections with traffic cameras.

But that doesn't change the reality that ending Manatee County's red-light camera program would a bad, horrible, terrible, ludicrous – oh, by the way, did we mention "bad"? – idea. And here are three reasons why:

1. Numerous studies continue to show that red-light cameras, when properly maintained and coordinated, can help prevent accidents and save lives.

For example, exhaustive research by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety revealed a 21% reduction in fatal red-light crashes in communities that use traffic cameras – and a 30% increase in red light-related accidents at intersections where cameras had been removed.

Shouldn’t figures like these mean something when it comes to promoting, encouraging and enforcing safe driving in Manatee County? Or is it more important to completely get rid of red-light cameras in the community simply because, as County Commissioner George Kruse suggested, people don’t “like them”?

Well, a lot of people probably aren't crazy about getting traffic tickets from Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies, either. So are we going to apply the "Hey, people don't like it, so don't do it" principle to that, too, Commissioner Kruse?

There's a strong chance that Manatee County's current red-light traffic camera program will end in October.
There's a strong chance that Manatee County's current red-light traffic camera program will end in October.

2. Driving in America has rarely been more dangerous than it is today. Period.

How dangerous?

According to data just released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more people died on U.S. roadways in 2021 than in any year since 2005 – and 4,091 more people died in motor vehicle crashes last year than in 2020.

In fact, things are so bad on America’s roads – not merely for drivers, but for pedestrians, cyclists and anyone else brave enough to venture anywhere where vehicles are traveling – that the Biden administration is sending $5 billion to communities around the country to implement programs aimed at reducing traffic deaths and increasing safety.

If anything, the Manatee County commissioners should be trying to figure out if there's a way to get federal money to improve Manatee’s red-light camera enforcement efforts. And they certainly shouldn't be trying to score cheap political points with the county’s wannabe drag racers by scrapping the use of traffic cameras.

3. See reasons “1” and “2” above.

They are pretty self-explanatory in making the case for keeping red-light traffic cameras in Manatee County, and they should be pretty persuasive, as well.

It’s never too late to do the right thing, and Manatee County's commissioners can do what’s both wise and safe by reversing course on their misguided plan to end the county’s red-light camera program.

– This editorial was written by Opinions Editor Roger Brown for the Herald-Tribune Editorial Board.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Don't get rid of red-light cameras in Manatee County