In the waning hours of the two-year legislative session in New Jersey, an effort to authorize the use of red-light cameras throughout the state gained final approval in the Legislature.
Existing New Jersey law prohibits use of camera radar by law enforcement officers or agencies.
The Assembly approved the bill on a 49-25 vote Monday, Jan. 7, and the Senate followed suit with a 22-11 vote. The bill – A4314 – that now heads to Gov. John Corzine’s desk 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. Municipalities would be able to enter into agreements with camera manufacturers, who receive 20 percent to 30 percent of the revenue generated from tickets, The News Journal in Delaware reported.
The cameras, used in more than 300 U.S. communities, snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicles and license plates. Tickets are then 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.
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 the opportunity to confront their accusers.
Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing that 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.
If the New Jersey bill is signed into law, cameras could start going up in communities around the state within 90 days.
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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor