New York bills would standardize yellow time, mandate ‘move over’ rule

| 8/6/2009

Two bills offered in the New York State Legislature would put restrictions on the use of traffic cameras to nab red-light runners and mandate that drivers move over for emergency and certain other vehicles.

Gov. David Paterson signed multiple pieces of legislation into law this spring authorizing the use of red-light cameras in more areas in the Empire State. New York City has relied on Big Brother to help with ticketing for 15 years.

New laws allow Buffalo and Rochester, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, to install the cameras at 50 intersections to catch motorists who don’t stop in time. A new law allowing red-light cameras in Yonkers permits use of the devices at 25 intersections.

The governor also signed into law a bill allowing New York City to add 50 intersections to the 100 already under the watchful eye of camera surveillance. The enforcement tool has been in use in New York City since 1994.

Paterson advocated expanding the use of the cameras in his budget proposals for 2009-10. He estimated the devices would generate nearly $50 million annually for local governments that authorize their use, Newsday reported.

Some are concerned that the length of time the yellow light remains on before turning to red is being shortened. This concern has spurred one state lawmaker to offer a bill – A7699 –mandating that all communities in the state that use the technology have uniform duration periods.

Supporters say the effort is intended to help ensure that the system of camera-generated ticketing is done for safety, and not abused for the benefit of local coffers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been critical of claims that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe. OOIDA leadership cites statements made by county officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties that refer to the boost in revenue the red light cameras will provide.

The bill is in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Another bill – A7423 – in the Transportation Committee would end New York’s distinction as being one of the few remaining holdouts from states that require drivers to make room for emergency workers and law enforcement officers during roadside stops.

The “Move Over” initiative would require drivers to switch lanes or reduce speed before passing emergency vehicles, law enforcement, highway maintenance vehicles or tow trucks parked by the road with lights flashing.

Failure to obey the rule would result in fines up to $100. Repeat offenders would face fines up to $500.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 40 states have implemented similar safety zone rules.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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