FLORIDA – The economic future of Florida apparently relies on the redesign of our license plates.
I had no idea what a problem the current license plates have been.
But it turns out that they’re wreaking havoc on what was supposed to be a lucrative business of photographing red-light violators at traffic intersections across the state.
Since the beginning of the year, about three million license plates of red-light violators in Florida have gone unticketed because the raised lettering on their license plates couldn’t be deciphered by surveillance cameras, according to state officials.
Whether it’s sun-bleached paint or the similarity of some letters and numbers, the shared money-making arrangement between government and the camera’s for-profit vendors has been thwarted too many times.
So the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is pushing for a new design. Fat, black letters and numbers on a plain white background. No raised figures. No pendulous oranges or dangling Florida peninsula getting in the way of the money shot.
One nation, under surveillance, with legibility and just deserts for all.
It’s a monumental accommodation to a public-private money-raising scheme that hasn’t been as routinely successful as imagined, still faces some constitutional challenges and has a safety record marred by creating more rear-end crashes, according to critics.
Consider this. Last month the city of DeLand in Central Florida decided to hold off approval of red-light cameras because a local traffic study showed there might not be enough violators to make it pay off. The city officials said they needed to get at least 10 red-light runners per day at each intersection to make the plan a moneymaker, more than the study found.
In West Palm Beach, only one of the seven intersections with red-light cameras has turned a profit since they were installed two years ago.
And in unincorporated Palm Beach County, the 10 cameras in place have yet to generate enough money in fines to match the costs of American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona for-profit company that operates the cameras.
Other cities with red light cameras have made money. But that might have something to do with a willingness to snag drivers for making rolling right turns or zealously enforcing crossings under a changing light.
If public safety is the primary concern, having a longer yellow lights at every city intersection may do more than trying to snag a financially necessary quota of drivers at a select few.
The remake of the state license plate, if given the green light by the Florida Cabinet later this month, is expected to cost $31.4 million, which the state plans to recoup from its share of the red-light tickets and from the fees collected by drivers who need to replace expired or illegal plates.
If that doesn’t do the trick, maybe we goose up the revenue by adding a new specialty license plate for our newest endangered species.
The Save The Red Light Cameras license plate.