Bill to OK red-light cameras advances in New Jersey

| 3/8/2007

A New Jersey Senate panel advanced a bill that could lead to red-light cameras popping up in the state. Existing state law prohibits use of camera radar by law enforcement officers or agencies.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 3-2 to release a bill - S2123 - to the chamber floor. The bill would remove the camera restriction for a period of 18 months to allow two municipalities to use photo enforcement at traffic signals that are deemed to have a high frequency of red-light runners.

While the committee did advance the bill, the panel stopped short of recommending the measure for passage. Lawmakers said the issue is worthy of additional consideration but they're concerned about the effectiveness of the cameras, reported.

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.

Assemblyman Joseph Coniglio, D-Paramus, the bill's sponsor, countered that a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the cameras, combined with longer yellow lights, reduced red-light violations by 96 percent.

"The main purpose of this bill is to make our roads safer," Coniglio told lawmakers.

Opponents question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. They also say the process denies alleged violators to confront their accusers.

"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 it," 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.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor