Jacksonville, FL - It was never about revenue.
From the moment the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced they would be installing red light cameras at some of the city’s most dangerous intersections, they pushed to make it clear the cameras were about safety and not money.
It’s for that reason there was no concern when the cameras only generated $82,696.55 in their first fiscal year, even though they were projected to bring in $1,500,000 for the City. This year, that revenue is down to $0.
Upon hearing the initial budget projection, JSO again restated they weren’t concerned about any revenue from the cameras so, seeing a drop was a good thing because it meant people weren’t running red lights. A WOKV investigation has uncovered, however, that while the number of people running red lights at those designated intersections may be dropping, that doesn’t necessarily indicate the intersections are significantly safer.
Overall crashes: by the numbers
I requested records through the Sheriff’s Office relating to the number of crashes at intersections monitored by red light cameras. The data compares the same time period before and after the cameras were installed, excluding the thirty day warning period that takes place right after installation to allow drivers to adjust. The records reflect through the date they were requested, September 10th.
I’ve compiled the data provided by JSO into one uniform spreadsheet attached to the left. The spreadsheet includes data provided from the Sheriff’s Office, but was generated by WOKV. Some intersections are monitored in multiple directions, while others may only have cameras on one direction.
The very first camera went up on Baymeadows at Southside Boulevard. In the 559 days before the installation, there were 99 crashes at that intersection- including crashes with either JSO or the Florida Highway Patrol responding. In the 559 days after installation, there were 126 crashes- which is an increase of more than 27%.
Beach and I-295 saw a nearly 30% increase in crashes, with 192 crashes in the 537 days since the cameras were installed. While this intersection was not the first to be monitored by red light cameras, it has seen the most crashes since installation.
Some of the other significant increases include Baymeadows and I-295, which saw a nearly 29% increase up to 153 crashes over 531 days; and Gate and Southside, up about 21% to 126 crashes over 522 days since installation.
There are some positive changes- the most substantial is Beach and Hodges, which over the 536 days since the cameras were installed saw a close to 33% drop in crashes to 122. This intersection had the most crashes ahead of camera installation, according to records, at 181. A more than 9% drop to 149 crashes was seen at Beach and University over 544 days.
Some other statistically big drops came for a few intersections which haven’t seen as many crashes overall or been active as long, including a more than 26% drop at Blanding and Collins, down to 45 crashes over 223 days. Arlington and Cesery dropped to 15 crashes over 133 days, a more than 44% decline.
Some of the drops didn’t amount to very much, however. Southside and Touchton saw three fewer crashes, down to 97 in the 559 days since installation. 103rd and Firestone was down four crashes to 103 over 530 days. Merrill and Townsend saw one fewer crash over 133 days, down to 18. There was one fewer crash in the 363 days since cameras were installed at San Jose and Claire Lane.
Still other intersections saw no change at all- University and Atlantic stayed at 111 crashes over 546 days since installation. Two of the newest cameras, Beach and San Pablo and Beach and St. Johns Bluff have held at one crash each in the 12 days since being operational.
There is very clearly a mixed bag, therefore, when it comes to whether red light cameras impact the number of crashes taking place, but the breakdown of the type of crashes occurring paints a better picture.
Overall crashes: by the type
The records I requested classify two main types of crashes: side impact and rear impact. As defined by JSO, side impact includes side swipes, angle crashes and side to rear impact. Rear Impact includes front to rear, rear to rear, and rear end crashes.
Nearly across the board, there is an increase in rear end crashes at red light camera intersections, which could in part be because drivers are attempting to avoid running the red lights.
Baymeadows and Southside saw a nearly 105% increase to 84 rear end crashes, Southside and Touchton was up nearly 74% to 66, Atlantic and Monument was up 103% to 59, Gate and Southside up nearly 67% to 90.
Only three of the intersections saw a drop in rear end crashes: Blanding and Collins had five fewer, Blanding and Youngerman had four fewer and Arlington and Cesery had six fewer. Four intersections saw no change.
Eight intersections saw more side impact crashes as well, the most substantial being a ten crash/43% increase at Beach and Southside and seven crash/78% increase at Baymeadows and I-295.
There were fewer side impact crashes after camera installation at ten of the intersections. That includes 19 fewer side impact crashes at Beach and Hodges, 15 fewer at Atlantic and Monument and 14 fewer at Beach and University.
For two weeks I’ve requested an interview with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to speak to the effectiveness of the red light camera program, given this information. One interview was cancelled the day before because I was told the Sheriff wanted to handle the interview personally. Through last week, JSO was unable to fit the interview in to the Sheriff’s schedule. After telling them this investigation would run this morning, I have been granted an interview this afternoon, which the JSO says was the first available time slot in the Sheriff’s schedule since he decided to do the interview personally.
There are some resources at JSO that go in to this program, including needing an officer to review video of every violation before a formal notice is issued. At the time of this report, exactly how many resources are invested in the program and at what cost was not immediately available.
Through the rest of the week we will press for more details about whether JSO continues to support the program and will continue to invest in it, despite these apparently mixed results. We’re also digging in to whether they will make any changes in the program, with more cameras expected to come on 103rd Street and Blanding and Baymeadows and Philips.
One new initiative, which appears to have started in the last week while my requests have been pending, is a “Red Light Runner of the Week” video. The Sheriff’s Office posted a video of a red light violation on their YouTube page along with a message reminding drivers to stop at red lights.
We want to hear what you think about the program- be sure to weigh in on our Facebook page. You can also send an “Open Mic” on the new News 104.5 app available for free download on iPhone and Android devices. We will also update with more information on the Sheriff’s response through the day.