Like most folks, I enjoy driving. It’s traffic that I dislike. Mostly, I’m not a fan of traffic because of its many surprises, some of which can easily wreck anyone’s day. With this week being National Stop on Red Week, I’d like to take a moment to ask drivers to take stock of their behavior behind the wheel, especially at intersections.
We are all familiar with the pattern of traffic signals right? Red, yellow, green. When each of us received our driver’s license we accepted the rule that green means it’s safe to proceed, yellow is a warning that traffic flow will soon change directions and we should prepare to stop, and red means we do not enter the intersection because traffic from another direction is now passing through. Yet, despite this familiarity and our agreement to follow the rules of the road, red-light running continues to threaten our safety.
In the five years up through 2015, red-light runners in Florida have caused on average more than 60 fatalities each year, making our state the third deadliest in the nation for red-light running fatalities. In 2015 alone, over 5,000 people were injured in red-light running crashes. The majority of these people were innocent motorists and passengers. They had a long-standing law on their side, their light was green.
Similarly disappointing are the costs associated with these crashes. The fatalities in 2015 alone amount to more than $360 million in costs to society from workplace, medical, property damage, emergency services and other expenses. Florida taxpayers kicked in an estimated $25 million toward that total if we consider the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s estimate that approximately 7 percent of all motor vehicle crash costs are paid from public revenues.
I am thankful that West Park decided to implement a red-light safety camera program in March of 2012. This program is more than a tool for our police department and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to help drivers avoid crashes and keep traffic flowing smoothly, it allows police to multiply their presence in our community for the safekeeping of our streets, our homes, our businesses and our families. A recent event at the Polo Club in Pembroke Park is a prime example of this as BSO contacted American Traffic Solutions for copies of the video from that fateful Sunday morning shooting in April in an attempt to determine what direction the subject fled and what vehicle he was driving. These cameras operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are an additional tool for our hard working deputies to use when the need arises.
Data from American Traffic Solutions, West Park’s red-light safety camera vendor, tell me our city’s camera program is affecting driver behavior for the better. Two data points in particular strike me.
First, most red-light runners in West Park do not get a second ticket for running a red light. From the start of the program through December 2016, 95 percent of red-light running violators who received a ticket and paid it, did not get a second ticket. In other words, they got the message the first time. This is remarkable. Now, we need to work on lowering the number of repeat offenders form 5 percent to zero.
Another finding in the vendor’s data shows that more than three-quarters of all red-light running tickets issued through 2016 went to vehicle owners whose cars are registered outside of West Park. This tells me our visitors and commuters are endangering themselves and our residents. To these drivers, I ask them to please stop running red lights. To our residents who are stopping on red, I urge you to continue this safe behavior so it rubs off on others.
For some drivers, traffic laws are mere suggestions. This is a dangerous attitude. The rules of the road are in place for everyone’s protection, be they drivers, passengers, bicyclists or pedestrians. These rules hold us accountable to one another while we share a public road.
Let me urge all drivers on more time, especially during Stop on Red Week, to abide by their local traffic laws today and every day. This week, in particular, I ask drivers to pay attention to their behavior at traffic signals. Slow down on yellow so you may stop safely on red.
I realize that this issue has caused some controversy in the City and on the Dais over the last few months and I wanted to let you the residents realize why I made the decision to change my mind when it came to this issue and doing away with the cameras. As the saying goes, knowledge is power and once I was completely educated on the benefits of the cameras, I felt the need to adjust my way of thinking and hope that you will do the same. Safe driving, and please keep our most precious residents in mind as they begin to head back to school and are waiting at bus stops or walking to class.