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Photo Enforcement Industry Launches All Out Florida Campaign

March 1, 2010

Photo Enforcement Industry Launches All Out Florida Campaign

Passage of legislation authorizing red light camera use in Florida becomes top priority for red light camera industry. 

University of  South FloridaThe industries that profit from photo enforcement are scrambling to convince Florida lawmakers to adopt legislation that will forgive municipalities for installing red light cameras contrary to existing state law. A circuit court judge last week ruled that red light cameras were illegal in the state, following the legal argument presented in a 2005 attorney general opinion. On the day the decision was handed down, an insurance and camera company-backed front group headed by Melissa Wandall, the widow of an accident victim, released new polling data intended to jump-start the legislative effort.

“These camera safety programs maintain that high degree of support across partisan, generational and gender lines as well,” Public Opinion Strategies (POS) partner Neil Newhouse claimed in the industry-supported press release. “Even a very healthy majority — 60 percent — of those who have personally received red light and speeding tickets still support using the cameras.”

The POS polling firm, which conducted the survey, has a contract with American Traffic Solutions to produce regular surveys in support of the ticketing company’s business model. The polling firm consistently produces favorable numbers that do not match the results seen at the ballot box. Photo ticketing has been put directly to voters in municipal elections on nine occasions (view list). Photo ticketing has lost all nine contests with up to 86 percent of voters rejecting the industry’s arguments.

The industry has also made it a priority to undermine a 2008 review of the safety effects of red light cameras conducted by University of South Florida (USF) researchers (view report). On the same day, a letter attacking the 2008 report by Edward A. Mierzejewski appeared in a suburban Chicago newspaper — the same letter, word-for-word, has appeared in the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running’s photo ticketing company-funded newsletter. Although the 2008 report’s authors responded directly to the criticisms in a journal article (view letter and response). Mierzejewski ignored the points made in rebuttal and used the same text published as a letter in a half-dozen Florida papers two full years ago.

The industry turned to Mierzejewski for good reason. As the administrator in charge of the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research, he is heavily involved in research supporting the use of toll roads. Tolling and photo enforcement are intimately linked, with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) serving as the leading provider of camera enforcement for toll roads. Mierzejewski maintains strong ties with the industry as he is the former program director for HDR Engineering, a company that worked closely with the ATS political operation in shutting down the 2008 congestion reduction initiative in Washington state that would have removed the profit motive from tolling and photo enforcement.

The Florida legislature will open the 2010 legislative session tomorrow.

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