Friday, May 24, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #109 - Part 3

Clown Award: Florida risks car crashes to raise bucks

The Clown Award, given as always for acts of meritorious stupidity. This week, the big red nose goes to the state of Florida.

WTSP-TV in Tampa Bay, Florida, has uncovered a systematic statewide scam to shorten yellow lights for the specific purpose of collecting more money in traffic tickets for running red lights. In some places, the money from such tickets has more than doubled.

The station's investigating team discovered that back in 2011 the Florida Department of Transportation quietly changed the state's policy on yellow intervals, reducing the minimum to a point below federal recommendations. The rule change was followed by engineers, both from the state and localities, collaborating to shorten the length of yellow lights at key intersections, specifically those with red light cameras.

Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year in approximately 70 Florida communities, with over half of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided among cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million in revenue.

What makes the Clown Award especially appropriate is that this not only crummy, it's stupid because shortening yellow light times makes traffic less safe. A US Department Of Transportation study concluded that "a one-second increase in yellow time results in a 40 percent decrease in severe red-light related crashes" - which also, of course, means shortening yellow times increases red-light related crashes. But apparently that doesn't matter as long as Gov. Voldemort gets his money. Indeed, the term "blood money" seems quite apt here.


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