Placing traffic cameras to catch speeders or red light runners in the act, a go-to strategy for lazily lining the coffers of municipal governments, is already controversial enough. But one Florida city has figured out a way to virtually guarantee a steady income stream, while it’s still legal, from its red light (s)cam: set the camera up in front of a hospital emergency room.
Florida Watchdog.org relates the story of Jacob Alcahe, a Miami-area man who drove himself to University Hospital in Tamarac because he was having chest pains. Believing he might be having a heart attack, fully stopping at the red light directly in front of the ER obviously wasn’t the first thing on his mind last October:
With the emergency room in sight, he stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of University Drive and 72th Street and waited anxiously for the light to turn green. After several minutes, he decided he’d waited long enough.
“I was desperate to get to the hospital because I felt very nervous,” Alcahe said.
Fortunately for him, the episode wasn’t life threatening. Alcahe was prescribed some medicine and was told to go home and rest.
The real heart stopper came a few days later when he received a fine of $158 for running the light.
“I went to court trying to show the judge medical records. I explained that it wasn’t intentional, but it was a medical emergency,” Alcahe said.
But he was told his medical emergency wasn’t a “sufficient excuse” and was charged an additional $125 for the judge’s time.
In total, his rush for help cost him $283.
“I expected at least a fair (trial), but I think the camera is put there intentionally to capture violations of the people who actually have a medical emergency,” he said. “It’s a scam to get the city more money. It’s unfortunate because local authorities should be for us and seem to be against us. I don’t understand and don’t think it’s fair.”
Other States have seen recent legislative action to block cities’ reliance on traffic cameras to ticket motorists, even as the private contracting companies that equip the cameras and manage the ticketing system (and legally reap a share of each mailed fine) have come under increasing scrutiny.
Two Republican State Legislators are moving to add Florida to that list: according to Watchdog.org, Florida Senator Jeff Brandes and Representative Frank Artiles have introduced legislation that aims to prohibit cities from installing new traffic light cameras Statewide – even though it would grandfather existing cameras installed before July 1 of this year.