New Jersey bill would OK red-light cameras

| 12/4/2007

As state lawmakers make a final push in New Jersey to approve bills before the regular session ends in about one month, a bill that could lead to red-light cameras popping up in the state still could draw consideration.

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 for a period of 18 months to allow two municipalities – to be designated later – to use photo enforcement at traffic signals that are deemed to have a high frequency of red-light runners.

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

Supporters say the equipment encourages compliance with the law and saves lives by reducing collisions.

Coniglio said 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 the opportunity to confront their accusers.

“The motivation of every player in this deal is economics. Whether it’s the local jurisdiction or the camera manufacturer: That’s not reasonable justification for doing this,” 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.

The bill – S2123 – is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the Assembly. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Jan. 8.

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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor