A Republican state senator from North Jersey has introduced legislation that eliminates the financial incentive for towns to install red-light cameras.
Sen. Mike Doherty (Warren) in mid-January vowed to bring forth the legislation challenging towns' purpose in red-light camera ticketing programs. He followed through on that promise on Thursday.
“Despite growing proof that red-light cameras have failed at their primary goal of improving driver safety, local officials continue to defend the cameras,” Doherty said in a press release. “It’s clear that many mayors and council members would rather have red-light cameras ticket revenues for their budgets than safer roads for our families.”
Doherty's bill would direct towns to deposit all fines collected from violations recorded by red-light cameras into the state's Highway Safety Fund, eliminating towns' share of red-light camera ticket revenues.
While it's mainly been Trenton Republicans bashing the red-light camera program to this point—Monmouth County Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon railed against the cameras last summer after his independent analysis found violations in the way traffic lights were timed—Statehouse Democrats are now also proposing changes to the program, which was approved as a five-year pilot in 2008.
On Feb. 11, the Assembly transportation panel reviewed a bill proposed by Democratic legislators John Wisniewski (Middlesex) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (Bergen) that calls for longer yellow-light times and a ban on automated tickets for right-turn violations, among other changes at red-light camera intersections.
Gloucester Township was one of 25 towns approved for the pilot program, and it flipped the switch on its red-light cameras in July 2010. The township issued a total of 38,766 traffic tickets between July 2010 and December 2011 as a result of driving actions captured by 10 cameras along Blackwood Clementon Road and later deemed illegal by police upon review.
Doherty is pointing to a November 2012 New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) report—completed as an annual requirement of the red-light camera pilot program—showing the total number of accidents, the total number of accidents resulting in injuries and the total cost of accidents all increased at intersections where red-light cameras have been installed.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which runs Gloucester Township's red-light cameras, released a video on Friday detailing the review process used before tickets are issued for violations captured by cameras. (See the YouTube video to the right.)
The Arizona-based company points to different numbers from the DOT report than those cited by Doherty. It notes a decrease in right-angle crashes, or broadside collisions, which it says are "the only type of collision that is directly attributed to red-light running."
"At the 24 intersections with red-light safety cameras in use for one year, total right-angle crashes decreased 15 percent from the previous year," ATS noted in a November 2012 press release. "At the two intersections with cameras in use for two years, right angle crashes decreased 57 percent after one year with cameras and 86 percent in the second year with red-light safety cameras in operation."
In January, Gloucester Township Business Administrator Tom Cardis took issue with Doherty's proposal to send funds to the state Highway Safety Fund.
“My criticism of this is it implies we've done something wrong, and we've done nothing wrong,” Cardis told Patch. "We made our application—which a lot of municipalities did not do, and that's on them that they did not take the initiative to do this; it was available to everybody."
He also noted that when the state Department of Transportation suspended ticketing from cameras in June 2012 in 21 of 25 municipalities approved for the state's pilot program, Gloucester Township was not among them. The state ordered the 21 municipalities to certify their cameras met the program's statutory requirements.
The Highway Safety Fund is used exclusively for highway safety projects and programs offered by DOT and state police.