The single activity which exposes us to government rules and regulations more than any other is driving. Every single day we have to deal with traffic laws. When they are irrational or unfair - or purposefully designed to rip us off rather than improve safety - it is particularly irritating. Traffic safety issues gave me my entree to policy and politics more than 20 years ago - so I know from what I speak.
Today we have an ongoing debate about red light cameras in New Jersey. Never mind that every single objective study in towns throughout other states has shown that these cameras are all about money - and that something as simple as proper setting of yellow light timing reduces dangerous straight-through red light running by up to 90%. Folks trust me, if the prospect of death isn't enough to dissuade someone from running a light, the presence of a camera isn't going to make the difference!
The most troubling thing about the New Jersey red light camera pilot program is that, until this week, it wasn't following the law. The law was designed so that we wouldn't have "red light traps" where yellow lights were set too short so that there would in fact be more violations – and resultant revenue. When the program was implemented back in 2009 under the Corzine administration someone simply decided that they wouldn't comply with the law. Call me naive, but even this veteran New Jersey legislator finds that disturbing. After hearing from constituents and doing my own investigation, I brought these facts to the folks in the Christie administration and they immediately realized that doing what was right - fixing the program to make sure we weren’t punishing innocent people – was more important than avoiding the headaches that might come along with the remedy. I applaud them for that.
This week the administration suspended the program until proper yellow light timing certifications can be completed. Now we must make sure that those assessments are done properly. An improper speed study is as bad, or worse, than none at all. And there is reason to believe that at a number of these intersections innocent people are likely being ticketed – the next one could be you.
Almost invariably, the devil's in the details. We scored a big, symbolic victory for motorists (essentially everyone in the state) this week with the suspension of the RLC program. Unfortunately I have to use the term "symbolic" because the remedy won't solve the problem. Those devilish details.
The decision was that if it's found a yellow light time doesn't conform we won't simply adjust it - we'll shut down the program at that intersection, halting all revenue from those cameras. This simply increased pressure to use methods to assess speeds that will virtually guarantee that all - with maybe a token few exceptions – RLCs are in compliance. Miraculously, these studies will suggest that all the people in these few stretches of roads are driving at exactly the speed limit. How do you spell “bologna?”
We are going to pay close attention to make sure that these studies are done according to sound engineering criteria. As we continue to gather data I believe that we will find – as many other municipalities and states have found – that these cameras do not lead to any safety benefits. But if we chose to continue this pilot program we have to join together to fight to make sure that we are not punishing innocent people - and according to the law.
Here are links to studies supporting our claims on Red Light Cameras:
University of South Florida Study:
USF follow-up to their study, taking aim at the Insurance Institute's claims: http://www.baynews9.com/content/dam/news/static/baynews9/documents/2014/01/Red-light-camera-study-usf-124.pdf
Article summarizing USF findings:Study finds red light cameras cause accidents | Watchdog Wire - Florida:
University of North Carolina A&T study prepared for US DOT:
Crashes increase at Winnipeg intersections with 7 years of data:
A California firm was found to rig their data in a bid to keep red light cameras:
Analysis Of National Data Finds No Benefit To Red Light Cameras:
Roundup of Red Light Camera Studies: