If you choose to come to the Hernando County Fair (April 4th through the 12th) or the City of Brooksville's Blueberry Festival (April 12th and 13th), please beware of the 16 red light cameras that surround the city.
For those who don't know, this small city of around 7,000 people issued more than 20,000 camera tickets last year. They made more revenue per capita than any other city in Florida.
With recent increased mandatory additions to the yellow light times, the straight through revenue has dropped throughout the Tampa Bay area. But how does Brooksville hang on financially to its program? The answer lies in its right-on-red turning speed limit.
Most municipalities in the Tampa Bay area have a reasonable 15 mph speed limit when turning right on red. Sarasota's is 25. Brooksville's is only 5 mph, which is almost impossible with many vehicles.
Tickets are being given for right turns at around 7 mph, if you can imagine, with no conflicting traffic. The majority of these are for out-of-towners, with no knowledge of this low turn speed. Brooksville's 5 mph "careful and prudent" turn speed for right on red is not posted, nor do they advertise this. It is hidden in their ordinances under streets and sidewalks rather than traffic ordinances.
If you are so unfortunate as to get a camera ticket in Brooksville, you have options. If you wait through the first two notices from the city, you will receive a third notice, a uniform traffic citation. With this, you can schedule an actual court hearing with Hernando County. Hernando judges to date, have not accepted camera evidence in their courts, and have offered their opinions as to the unconstitutionality of its use. You have an extremely high chance of dismissal for right on red.
On the other hand, if you go to the city magistrate at City Hall, they follow the "letter of the law." They are more likely to ignore the lack of conflicting traffic, lack of knowledge of local ordinances, fairness, financial circumstances or constitutionality. In other words, you have a very high chance of being found guilty and having to pay the additional $150 court costs, raising the cost of a single ticket to $308.
All this, for what in all likelihood, was a "careful and prudent" turn, as described in state statutes. At the three monthly hearing sessions we've attended at Brooksville City Hall, no one has been judged "not guilty" at the time.
Some drivers even swore under oath that they stopped first, but it didn't matter. To be "careful and prudent" in Brooksville, it is best to stop, sit and stay until the light turns green for all turns. It's the only sure way to return home without a $158 surprise coming to your mailbox.
Shirley Miketinac is a Brooksville resident.