NMA E-Newsletter #300: “It Only Takes One …”

We all expect a certain level of hypocrisy in politics, but some examples are just so flagrant, we can’t ignore them. Such is the case of Sara Shaw, a city commissioner in Kissimmee, Florida.

In August, a Florida Highway Patrol officer stopped Shaw on the Florida Turnpike for driving in excess of 100 mph in a city-owned vehicle. (Watch the dashcam video here.) Shaw took a defiant tone throughout the encounter and later said the officer’s account of the stop was wrong. Court records show that the commissioner is no stranger to the red and blue flashers (more on this in a minute). The irony is that at the time of the stop, Shaw was on her way to meet with the Florida League of Cities (FLC) to discuss the virtues of red-light cameras.

Seems Shaw has gained a reputation as a red-light camera crusader. In March, she testified before the Florida Senate Transportation Committee, along with the FLC, in favor of red-light cameras. (Watch the video here. Her testimony starts at the 106: 25 mark.) During her testimony, Shaw claimed red-light cameras had reduced traffic accidents in Kissimmee. She then explained how she had been hit by a red-light runner and therefore considers red-light runners criminals. She also blamed “habitual offenders” for most intersection accidents and said “it only takes one ticket in the mail” to correct the behavior.

Funny Ms. Shaw should point the finger at habitual offenders, given her own substantial experience with the traffic justice system.

At the time she testified in March, Shaw was under license suspension for an unpaid speeding ticket, according to Orange County court records. This was her fourth license suspension for failure to pay her traffic fines. Since 2002, Shaw has accumulated a total of three speeding tickets, two tickets for failure to obey a traffic control device (such as a red light), one ticket for running a stop sign and one ticket for failure to yield.

Shaw’s license was reinstated in July, shortly before her latest brush with the FHP. She failed to appear for that ticket, claiming she never received notice of her arraignment date. However, the trooper told her the date during the stop and wrote it on her ticket. According to court records, this was the second time Shaw has failed to appear for a court proceeding. Court records also show that Shaw has twice taken the court-approved traffic safety class to mitigate the points on her driving record.

It seems that multiple tickets and multiple traffic safety classes have had little impact on Ms. Shaw’s behavior behind the wheel. If only one of those tickets had come from a camera—remember, “it only takes one”—perhaps she would have learned her lesson.

One final note. Shaw’s March legislative testimony prompted a Florida red-light camera activist to ask the City of Kissimmee for records regarding the number of red-light violation crashes before and after the installation of red-light cameras. Over the course of four months, the city was unable to produce accurate information due to a problem with the method it used to submit data to the state as well as a claim that the backup data could not be recovered.



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