New Jersey bill would OK red-light cameras

| 2/6/2007

A New Jersey state lawmaker has offered a bill that could lead to red-light cameras popping up in communities around the state.

Existing state law prohibits use of camera radar by law enforcement officers or agencies.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Coniglio, D-Paramus, the bill would remove the restriction to allow counties and cities to use photo enforcement at certain traffic signals.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners' vehicles and license plates. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles' owners, regardless who was driving at the time.

Supporters say the equipment encourages compliance with the law and saves lives by reducing collisions. Opponents question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe.

"The motivation of every player in this deal is economics. Whether it's the local jurisdiction or the manufacturer: That's not reasonable justification for doing that," said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents.

In fact, a study paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed rear-end crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras, as motorists stopped abruptly at yellow lights to avoid tickets.

Coniglio's bill would fine violators up to $25. Anyone who fails to pay up could have their driving privileges suspended.

The bill - S2123 - is in the Senate Transportation Committee. It could come up for consideration as soon as Thursday, Feb. 8.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor