Why N.J. Drivers Should Be Seeing Red Over Red-Light Cameras

×
red light camera"Smile! You're on Candid Camera!"

This old tag line, first aired on American radio (if you can believe it) in 1947, has taken on a new meaning in America, as states across the land have begun installing red-light cameras at their traffic intersections. Ostensibly an invention aimed at preventing accidents, these cameras have morphed into revenue generators for states and municipalities. Through the magic of technology -- voila! -- instant traffic tickets, and no paychecks for policemen required!

Not everyone's pleased with this development. Take New Jersey, for example.

Historically, objections to the use of traffic cameras have hinged on constitutional grounds, with detractors arguing that using a camera to issue a ticket violates a motorist's due process rights. (So far, 15 states have banned red-light cameras on this basis.) But in New Jersey last month, 21 out of 25 towns that have been using the cameras were told to suspend the practice for another reason entirely: They don't work.

Oops!

Late last month, the New Jersey Transportation Department warned that dozens of its red-light cameras may not be properly calibrated -- or rather, the traffic lights to which they're attached may not be showing the yellow light long enough for drivers to get through the intersection without getting snapped. Either way you look at it, the result is the same: New Jersey may have been issuing improper traffic tickets for months.

[Pause for outrage.]

Regardless of this risk, New Jersey says it's only suspending enforcement while recalibrating the machines. As soon as it decides everything is kosher, the tickets will begin flowing again. Why?

You'll be shocked to learn that the answer is: money. Numerous reports challenge cameras' effectiveness at improving traffic safety. (Actually, in 2005, The Washington Post confirmed that accident rates at camera-equipped intersections actually go up by double-digit percentages, as nervous drivers see a yellow light and slam on the brakes, more worried about a head-on collision with a ticket than being rear-ended by the drivers behind them.) One thing no one disputes, though, is that red-light cameras bring in the cash. In buckets.

In Rochester, N.Y., cameras have yielded some $1.8 million in fines since installation last July 1. Granted, two-thirds of this went to the cameras' owner-operator, Redflex Traffic Systems. City officials still gloat over revenues flowing in at "triple" their initial estimates. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the past 13 months have seen cameras in the town of Cherry Hill issue some 17,500 citations, for about $1 million in revenue.

Hey, with this much revenue at stake, who cares if the things work right?

Fool contributor Rich Smith rarely runs red lights... when anyone is watching. He owns no shares of any company named above.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Banking Services 101

Understand your bank's services, and how to get the most from them

View Course »

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

6 Comments

Filter by:
jcwconsult

Simply adding one second to the yellow intervals will almost certainly reduce violations by MORE than using the red light camera cash registers. So why do cities use the cameras instead of safer, longer yellows? The an$wer$ $eem obviou$ to mo$t ob$erver$.

See our website for the research on how proper engineering is the real answer, NOT predatory red light camera cash registers. If the research makes sense to you, contact your state legislators and ask them to support Senator Mike Doherty's bill S1952 to ban the cameras statewide (as 15 states already do). Then contact your local officials to tell them you do NOT want cameras installed in your area or you want those already there to be taken down permanently. Vote out any state or local officials who support the red light camera cash registers.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

July 09 2012 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
donaldson@msn.com

Make no mistake RLC are a SCAM!

One NJ town was already BUSTED USING SHORT YELLOWS! http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/34/3418.asp Quote: "Red light running all but disappeared at a New Jersey intersection after the duration of the yellow light warning time was increased under threat of a lawsuit. Glassboro gave the private company American Traffic Solutions (ATS) permission to issue red light camera tickets at the intersection of William Dalton Drive and Delsea Drive on March 26. The location was so successful at issuing $85 tickets that it generated $1 million worth of notices within just seven months."

And short yellows are not the only way they scam cash.

1. stopping on or just over the stop line.
2. right turns on red.

In the end this is more about petty violations for profit (with the "violations' becoming ever more petty as the stopping on the stop line shows. http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/36/3687.asp).

FIGHT THE RLC FRAUD!

BAN THE CAMS!

www.motorists.org
www.banthecams.org
camerafraud on Facebook

July 07 2012 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FCI Fincl Serv

I had an experience with the Red Light Bandits, er police! I was told that the cameras are for the safety of drivers and not a "revenue source"! I fully trust the CONSTABULARY because they never lie! I do know that children playing with the Laser Pointers, sometimes accidently point them at the lenses of the Red Light Cameras and cause problems for the cameras. If your children do have the laser pointers and are using them when you are at a camera equipped intersection, do not change your focus from driving, but you can tell your children at a latyer time when you are not operating a motor vehicle, that what they did is Naughty
and will not be looked on favorably by Santa Claus. The LASER POINTER could damage the Red Light Camera's optical system and make it possible for LAWBREAKERS to escape punishment for commiting a major crime! Children can be so naughty!

July 06 2012 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brian

Rick Smith is starting to catch on. The problem with improper approach speeds is not confined to New Jersey. The problem is everywhere. The entire world shares the same amber light standard. In New Jersey it is just that the "85 percentile rule for approach speeds" is explicitly written into the law. Most every where else the law requires adherence to the MUTCD, which it turn requires adherence to the "engineering practices", which in turn requires adherance to the 85th percentile rule. We connected the DOTs down here in North Carolina. But there is something far worse than not conforming the amber time to the 85th percentile rule. The federal standard itself, even when engineers conform it, still forces 100x more drivers to run red lights than just getting the approach speed wrong. The federal standard violates the laws of physics. Enforcing the federal standard to the precision of red light cameras is like enforcing a law forbidding gravity. Everyone is guilty. Read the paper "Misapplied Physics" at the top of redlightrobber.com.

July 05 2012 at 8:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chasmy57

another f in way to generate money

July 05 2012 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Larry

And they say"Oh really how did that happen. Must be the contractors fault" But we got the $$$$$. Hmmmm.

July 05 2012 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply