STATE – Two years ago, New Jersey lawmakers authorized municipalities to use cameras mounted at intersections to photograph and ticket motorists who run red lights, but local programs have been caught up in red tape.
In Linden, city officials obtained preliminary approval from the state Department of Transportation to install cameras at three intersections. However, the city needs additional approval because those intersections are on state highways, officials said.
The proposed sites are on Routes 1 & 9 and South Stiles Street, as well as South Park Avenue, and Route 27 and North Stiles Street.
Woodbridge is still waiting on final Department of Transportation and arrangements with a camera company, officials said.
There are privacy issues raised by the cameras, but proponents feel that public safety trumps those concerns.
“We believe very strongly that in this age of the cell phone and the digital camera, we are beginning to understand that you give up a certain amount of privacy when you enter the public sphere,” said Newark Mayor Cory Booker after his city became the first in the state to utilize the cameras. “We think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.”
Others are even questioning whether the cameras improve public safety at all.
“When the Legislature approved the pilot traffic surveillance program,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), “our intention was to reduce traffic crashes and pedestrian fatalities at problematic intersections. However, if drivers know they’re risking a traffic ticket from running a red light, they’re more likely to stop short, resulting in an increase in rear-end collisions.”
A 2006 study of red-light cameras in Winnipeg, Canada, and the 2005 study by the Virginia Department of Transportation both showed an increase in collisions at intersections with the cameras in the two years after installation. While fewer drivers ran red lights, there was an increase in rear-end collisions resulting from drivers slamming on the breaks to avoid a ticket.
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