New Jersey legislation would OK red-light cameras

| 1/7/2008

As the final hours tick away on the two-year legislative session in New Jersey, a legislative effort that could lead to red-light cameras popping up in the state was scheduled for consideration on the floors of both chambers Monday, Jan. 7.

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

As amended, the Assembly and Senate versions of the bill would remove the restriction for a period of five years to allow municipalities to use photo enforcement at traffic signals. The transportation commissioner would decide in which communities it is appropriate to post the traffic cameras.

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, 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.

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 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.

The bills – A4314 and S2123 – are awaiting consideration on the Assembly and Senate floors, respectively. If approved there, they would move to the opposite chamber for further consideration. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 8.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor