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This isn't best week to ignore red lights

Sheriff's deputies are stepping up enforcement at selected intersections. Fines are $83 plus license points.

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2002


Up to 10 sheriff's deputies may be waiting for you at some of Hernando County's busiest intersections this morning.

The Sheriff's Office will start its annual "Stop Red Light Running" campaign today, part of a statewide effort to discourage drivers from running lights. Heavy ticketing will last until Saturday.

All week, up to 24 deputies, in cars and on motorcycles, will park at major Hernando intersections and wait. Several deputies will be spotters, looking for cars that coast through red lights. Others will be catchers, giving chase as soon as a spotter points toward a car. Deputies spent time last week hunched over county maps, planning their positions at particular intersections.

Violators face an $83 fine and three points on their driver's licenses.

Among the targeted intersections: Cortez and Mariner boulevards in Spring Hill, Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill, and all intersections along Commercial Way in Spring Hill and Weeki Wachee, said Sgt. Lanny Corlew, head of the traffic division for the Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said they also will try to educate drivers who run yellow lights. Throughout the week, they will issue warnings and citations, Corlew said.

In 2000, people who ran red lights caused 9,323 crashes, 114 fatalities, 13,926 personal injuries and $346-million in economic loss in Florida, according to the Florida Community Traffic Safety Teams Coalition. Specific Hernando County numbers are not available, Corlew said.

"We want to educate people about the dangers of running red lights," said Deanna Dammer, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. "We're trying to educate, not punish."

The Sheriff's Office ticketed at least 35 drivers during last year's one-week crackdown. Deputies said they would have written more tickets but were called from their posts to investigate a double shooting and accidents that kept them busy. This year, deputies also will leave their ticketing posts if more important calls are placed to the department, Corlew said.

-- Jamie Jones covers law enforcement and courts in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to jjones@sptimes.com.

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