An article in last Sunday's Tampa Bay Times, Oldsmar intersection prompts questions about red-light cameras, exposed the city's unethical behavior while fining drivers through a city approved ordinance for their usage of red light cameras.
The intersection in question is the red light at SR 580 and Tampa Road. Unfortunately, I was a victim of this unfair municipal extortion of monies. After receiving a violation notice on Aug. 15, 2012, I immediately notified Oldsmar that the yellow light at this intersection was only 3-seconds, while all other lights with red light cameras in the city lasted 4.5 seconds. I shared video evidence of this fact with Ann Stephan, spokesperson for the city, and of course she used the same excuse as they're using now, it's not their responsibility to assure that yellow light times follow DOT guidelines and blamed Pinellas County for the discrepancy. They also expressed having no intention of doing the right thing in this matter.
While I have been through this intersection hundreds if not thousands of times, I can not remember ever driving through it at the full posted speed limit of 45 mph. I also firmly believe that before the cameras were installed the yellow light was definitely longer. In my experience, this particular light almost always catches drivers in the turn lanes and one has to proceed through it after being in a stopped position.
There appears to be very little reason for a red-light camera at this intersection other than a previously shortened yellow light to increase revenue for the city, the state and the vendor.
When my supposed violation occurred, I was the third vehicle in line and due to hesitation by the lead car, I failed to completely get over the white line before the light turned red. And yes, I had a driver right on my rear bumper that had honked their horn when the lead driver hesitated.
If the yellow-light timing had followed DOT guidelines, this would not be an issue for myself or the many others who received this unfair violation fine. Before changing the yellow light timing at this intersection fines totaled $158,158 and after the correction these fines totaled $81,084 cutting revenue by almost half the previous total.
Of course, the city won't take responsibility for their unethical actions and blame Pinellas County and others for the shortened yellow light. Have they no shame?
Obviously not! Initially, I wanted to take this violation to court, but to avoid the hassle of going to traffic court and the potential of being extorted of more monies, I paid this onerous city ordinance fine.
Now I regret giving in as others who took it to court had their cases dismissed by fair and sensible judges. Of course, now it is little consolation knowing that given 1.5 seconds more this violation would not even have been issued to myself or many others. At the time, given the video evidence, I knew this was an unfair action and as a result my family and I have boycotted Oldsmar businesses since last August. We have not spent one single dime in a city where we used to spend approximately $3,000 or more per year. I would urge others as well not to spend money in a city so deceitful and dishonest as Oldsmar.
In the end, the city, county and state need to do the right thing and refund all fines given to drivers that received violation notices before the correction was made. Otherwise, they should all be made party to a class-action lawsuit by those who were unfairly treated due to this municipal license to steal approved by the City of Oldsmar.