Red-light Cameras: a Violation of Florida Law?

Many cities in South Florida have followed a practice that the city of Pembroke Pines put in place last year: installing a red-light camera. However, since then, the question has been raised as to whether this practice conflicts with Florida state law. Several lawsuits have been filed in cities such as Aventura and Miami, with varied results.

The goal of the red-light camera is simple: to monitor the streets of our cities so as to prevent auto accidents and deter drivers from running red lights. The camera takes a photo of the vehicle before it reaches the intersection and after it passes. Another camera takes a 12-second video of the vehicle, which allows police to view the scene and assess whether the violation was necessary and determine whether or not to issue a ticket. Later, drivers can see the evidence online for themselves.

There is also a great financial incentive. Tthe Miami Herald reported that tickets in Pembroke Pines are $125, with American Traffic Solutions, the vendor, taking about $17.50 to $47.50, and the city keeping the rest. One camera in Pembroke Pines, Pines Blvd. and Southwest 129th Ave., has issued more than $100,000 since March. Aventura’s five cameras have brought in almost $1 million, and Fort Lauderdale’s proposed cameras hope to bring $1.8 million.

While proponents of the cameras stress the importance of safety for drivers, while making a few extra dollars amid harsh economic times, critics raise concerns about their due-process rights. In Florida, traffic laws must be uniform across the state. Having varied city camera laws would be a violation of state law. Furthermore, critics raise concerns as to an owner being cited for a violation, rather than the actual driver of the vehicle.

Legislation has been proposed for cameras in the past, but has not passed due to legal concerns. Last year, Legislation tried to legalize the cameras but failed. In 2005, then-Attorney General Charlie Christ noted that local governments had the right to set up cameras, but further added that state law would need to be changed for cities to issue tickets with red light cameras.
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Fatal Injury at Florida’s Disney World

Last week, 30-year-old Anislav Varbanov, a stunt performer at Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, died when he broke his neck while rehearsing for a stunt show. The Orlando Sentinel story reports that the performer was practicing a tumble roll for the popular Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. The Orange-Osceola County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death due to a cervical spine fracture in Varbanov’s neck.

A spokeswoman for Disney, Zoraya Suarez , stated that the tumble roll was a common maneuver which had been performed many times in the show without injury. One employee said he was told that Varbanov landed awkwardly on his neck during the rehearsal.

This is the third incident in two months at the popular Florida amusement park. A week prior to this incident, Mark Priest, a 47-year-old actor at Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial in the Magic Kingdom, was injured after stumbling into a wall.

During the 4th of July weekend, 21-year-old monorail operator Austin Wuennenberg was killed in a monorail collision. The Sheriff’s Office is also investigating these other accidents. While the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates each incident for patterns, Disney has said that each of these cases is unique and there is no link between them.

Since 2007, the OSHA has started 17 investigations, including the three mentioned this year, but only had three investigations in the previous five years. While no guests were injured in these three recent incidents, this wave of accidents in the past two months still presents a concern to the millions of guests and children who visit Disney’s theme parks in the summertime. Investigators must do their best to see that, whether these incidents were separate or related, the appropriate measures are taken so that both employees and guests are assured that Disney continues to operate its facilities with the utmost safety.

South Florida Hospital Sued for Malpractice for Brain Damage to Baby

St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida is being sued by a pregnant woman for injuries her baby suffered when the hospital mistakenly gave the woman a drug which speeds up labor. The Miami Herald reports that the woman, Tesome Sampson, gave birth two months early and her baby suffered brain damage as a result of the drug. She and baby’s father, Frank Guy, filed suit for negligence against the hospital, its owner Tenet Healthcare, and other hospital personnel, claiming $3.5 million in medical costs.

In the hospital’s statement, it apologized and acknowledged that Sampson was given the wrong medication, and that the mistake was “an unfortunate error”. The drug, Prostin E2, has been approved by the FDA , and is commonly used for the termination of pregnancies and expelling uterine contents, and can be used to induce labor.

Sampson was admitted to the hospital on August 25, 2008, 24 weeks pregnant. She was put on bed rest, but ten days later was given the wrong drug and suffered severe cramps. Sampson was given a portable toilet, where the baby was delivered.

Hospitals are not impervious to error. In 1999, an Institute of Medicine study found that about 98,000 people die every year from medical errors. These errors can be attributed to a number of factors such as miscommunication or failure of communication between hospital personnel and inefficient safety systems. Human error also plays a part, sometimes due to hospital staff work long hours.

However, the consequences of such mistakes can be life-altering, or even lead to death. Our firm has handled cases such as this where a careless error, one that could have been easily avoided, has taken the most precious of life away- a child. Furthermore, medical errors can attribute to millions of dollars spent on additional care needed to treat medical errors, rehabilitative treatment, increased medical malpractice insurance costs, and litigation expenses. Hospitals must do their part at all levels of administration to implement appropriate measures to ensure safety of their patients.

Broward County Auto Accident Puts Eight in Hospital

On Wednesday, August 20, the Sun Sentinel reported an auto accident that occurred in Hallandale Beach, where eight people, including two children ages 3 and 7, were sent to the hospital after a three –car collision on Pembroke Road, about 1 block east of I-95. The accident occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

The driver, a man in his 70s, was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood in serious condition. The accident occurred when the driver, heading west on Pembroke Road, crossed into the eastbound lane, crashed into a Lexus, then crashed head-on into a pick-up truck. The cause of the accident is still unknown.

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Statistics Report 2008, the state of Florida had 243,342 traffic crashes last year, down about 5% from 2007. The report shows that Broward County had a total of 26,417 traffic accidents in 2008, with the greatest concentration of accidents on a weekday occurring after noon, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Broward County was second only to Miami-Dade in total crashes last year. The risks associated with driving increase in larger metropolitan cities, such as Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Modern-day distractions (cell phones, mp3 players, etc.) and other factors, such as alcohol/drug abuse, poor vision, and aggressive driving all add to the danger. We have recently written about the issue of cell phone use and driving in a previous article “Does Cell Phone Use cause Florida Car Accidents?” It is clear that cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle can cause drivers to be distracted and distracted drivers can cause accidents.

We all need to make a conscious effort to be safer drivers. Our lives and the lives of our friends and families depend upon it. The Florida Safety Council is one of many great sources of information for tips on driver safety. By knowing the facts and being informed, drivers of all ages can get a better understanding and take more preventative measures to ensure the safety of themselves and others.