The South Miami Police Department has a new tool to assist officers in the enforcement of red light violators. Earlier this month, Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) contractors, in cooperation with Miami-Dade County Public Works, installed white enforcement lights on the overhead traffic signal arms at Sunset Drive and South Dixie Highway (U.S.#1).
The lights and their installation were funded by FDOT as a pilot project in this county at the request and recommendation of the City of South Miami’s Community Traffic Safety Team (CTST). “We are very pleased to finally have this project completed after years of trying,” said the chairperson of the CTST. The white lights were identified as a priority 4-5 years ago by the CTST which meets monthly to discuss ways to reduce injuries due to traffic crashes.
The white lights, visible 360 degrees, are connected directly to the same wiring as the red signals – in all four directions of the intersection. When the red light activates, the 360-degree white light illuminates simultaneously.
Police officers monitoring the intersection for red light runners can then identify when a particular light turns red from any position near the intersection by watching for the white light to come on. With this technology, red light violations are more obvious to enforcement officers and court challenges are reduced.
In red light violation cases, officers usually are required to testify that they witnessed the light being red. If they are not facing the red light, this can be difficult. Now, they can testify that they witnessed the white light, directly connected to the red light. This testimony has proven effective in other court jurisdictions and is expected to be acceptable in Miami-Dade traffic courts.
RED LIGHT CAMERAS
The CTST and the South Miami Police Department are constantly seeking new and innovative methods to prevent traffic crashes. Next, city officials are contemplating the use of computer/photo technology to record and cite red light violations. That technology is already in use in communities around the country, as well as one Florida panhandle city. Many other Florida jurisdictions are in the process of obtaining red light cameras.
South Miami hopes to be one of the first in Miami-Dade to make red light running an automatic violation to have a substantial impact on traffic crashes.
“It is often asked why minor traffic laws are enforced when there are ‘more important things’ for police officers to focus on,” said a South Miami Police spokesperson. “We do realize that more important crimes and issues demand our attention and resources, and our people do an excellent job responding to those higher concerns, but we also know that traffic is a substantial community concern and that lives are lost due to improper or careless drivers. So, it is our duty to remain vigilant and seek innovative and cost-effective ways to address traffic concerns,” he said.
DON'T BLOCK THE BOX
A common cause of congestion is the blocking of intersections or “gridlock”. When this occurs, travel time and fuel are wasted; air pollution increases and tempers flare. It is hazardous to vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Blocking an intersection is rude to other drivers.
Florida Statute 316.2061 states that drivers should not enter intersections or crosswalks unless there is space on the other side of the intersection or crosswalk to allow the driver to make it all the way across without stopping and blocking the cross traffic.
City police officers will issue citations for this violation.
ELECTRONIC TICKETING SYSTEM
For the last ten years, a hand-held electronic ticketing system has been by South Miami's traffic enforcement motorcycle units. Called PocketCitationT, the device scans the traffic offender's license and automatically inserts the appropriate information into the citation.
The officer completes the citation by selecting the vehicle information and proper violations from drop-down menus. Then, according to the manufacturer's literature, the "PocketCitationT automatically populates the appropriate statue number, fine and court information, along with a state issued citation number."
TICKETING MADE EASY
All the officer has to do then is print out the citation using a small, portable printer, give the citation to the offender with the usual instructions and return to patrolling. If the stop involves more than one violation, it takes less than ten seconds to create additional citations by simply selecting a different violation on the drop-down screen.
ASK THE EXPERTS
The Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts conducted a study on the benefits of using a computerized system. They stated around twenty percent of traffic citations had been dismissed due to errors officers were making when filling out information, such as, listing the incorrect state statute. They also noted that at times the names of the violator or officer was unreadable. This computerized system also shortened the time it takes to make routine traffic stop.