Apopka shuts down red light cameras; state could follow

Drivers in Apopka will no longer have to worry about getting a red light ticket from the city in their mail box. 

On Tuesday the city’s red light cameras were officially shut down. The city council voted last year to end the controversial program due to several factors.

"They're off,” said Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson. “Red light cameras are no longer functional."

Nelson campaigned on ending the program before becoming the city’s mayor. He said Wednesday that the cameras had simply been more of a problem than a benefit.

Among the issues Nelson cited were an increase in crashes state-wide. That increase was highlighted in a 2017 report from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Nelson also pointed out dings to the city’s reputation from the cameras. 

Nelson recalled business owners in neighboring communities not wanting their fleet vehicles to travel through the city.

"They were telling their employees, 'do not go to Apopka for lunch,’” said Nelson, “because what would happen is the employee would get a red light camera ticket, and who pays for it? Not the employee: the employer."

Several residents downtown Wednesday said they had received tickets from the cameras for incomplete or rolling stops on right turns rather than a clear drive-through on red.

Nelson said one clear benefit of the cameras though was their assistance in crime fighting and solving crimes. He said the community plans to replace some of the cameras at the intersections with ones that will serve only as a crime fighting tool and not as a ticketing mechanism.

However, 2019 may be the beginning of the end of the red light camera programs state-wide.
Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini of Clermont has filed a bill for the 2019 session to repeal the current state law allowing cities to install red light cameras. 

"This is a program that's been tested and it's done a very bad job,” said Sabatini on Wednesday.

This is the Republican lawmaker’s first bill as a member of the legislature, but he said it’s a no-brainer.
Sabatini also cited the bump in accidents at red light intersections as well as the rampant unpopularity of the cameras.

"We've seen that the money has not been wisely used,” he said, “most of the money actually goes to the camera companies themselves. They're all over Central Florida and people do not want them there."

The bill will go before the State House this March.

At least a few Apopka residents Wednesday hoped the loss of the cameras wouldn’t undo the good things some say they bring to the table.

"I think they've done their purpose,” said Charlie Benham, “I think they've done good. Hopefully now they've trained us to where we do stop at the red light."