More than 12,000 people have signed a petition supporting the use of red-light safety cameras at dangerous intersections across New Jersey, but the state has no current plans to continue the technology. Despite the signatures collected by the National Coalition for Safe Roads, officials remain undecided about adding the technology at intersections in the southern part of the state.
In April, the state Department of Transportation announced that no new red-light-running camera locations would be added in its five-year pilot program, spokesman Steve Schapiro wrote in an email. The program, which is expected to end next year, includes 76 red-light cameras at 25 intersections across the state.
The closest are cameras in Brick Township, Ocean County, and Williamstown, Gloucester County.
Stafford Township, in 2009, was the only municipality in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties that applied to experiment using surveillance cameras to catch drivers who run red lights.
But Stafford Township eventually decided not to participate. Township Administrator Jim Moran said the application to the pilot program came before the current administration and is not something current officials are interested in reviving.
Officials in Atlantic County and Atlantic City, however, said they are open to discussing the use of the cameras if they can make intersections safer.
The technology is placed at intersections with traffic signals and a history of accidents or moving violations. The cameras take photos of motorists' license plate numbers and police review them to determine whether there is probable cause to issue the driver a summons.
The third annual report on New Jersey's pilot program is being completed, but there is no date on when it will be delivered to the state Legislature or when it will be made public, Schapiro said.
A minimum of two years is needed in order for DOT to collect enough data from the cameras to determine whether they are helping to reduce accidents at intersections, officials said.
But the National Coalition for Safer Roads said studies show that the technology is working and saving lives.
Rutgers University Plan4Safety crash data from 26 intersections in 15 townships with American Traffic Solutions' red-light safety cameras in operation for at least one year showed total right-angle crashes decreased an average of 11 percent. The data also showed that at 12 intersections with the cameras in place for two years, there was a reduction in collisions of 59 percent from the first year of use to the second.
Additional crash data from Rutgers Plan4Safety showed by comparison, right angle-crashes at intersections without red-light safety cameras increased by 46 percent.
In Atlantic City, a potential location for red-light cameras could be Winchester and Albany avenues. The intersection has seen 41 collisions from 2012 until the present, police data obtained by The Press of Atlantic City show. Between 2008 and 2011, the intersection and the 30-foot perimeter around it had 115 motor vehicle crashes, the most of any intersection in the city.
Mayor-elect Don Guardian said addressing the safety concerns at the intersection will be at the top of his list when he takes office next month. He said he will be meeting soon with City Engineer William England.
"Any concern for safety is a concern of mine," he said.
Guardian said he has not researched whether adding red-light cameras at intersections prevents accidents, but it is something he is willing to discuss.
Last year, the city's Engineering Department planned several projects at intersections and roadways citywide, including the addition of cameras to monitor traffic and crashes.
The department, however, hasn't studied the Winchester and Albany avenues intersection and has not been called on to look into adding red-light cameras, England said.
Right now, that intersection is functioning as designed as far as left and right turns, he said. He added that he would have to look at the crash data from the intersection and that he has seen drivers run red lights at the intersection.
"I would want to look at all other possibilities and other fixes at that intersection. I'd be real cautious about wanting to go that route with red-light cameras. I think it brings another element into the intersection, and if people know there's a camera at an intersection, it's been said they slam on their breaks and then they are hit in the rear," England said.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the implementation of cameras at intersections to monitor drivers running red lights is something that deserves discussion.
Levinson said he believes the technology could also help crack down on distracted drivers.
"Most certainly I believe it would have an effect. Maybe drivers would think twice about running a red light. If you run a light at a toll booth you get a ticket," Levinson said.
The county has already seen the effectiveness of different types of cameras at traffic signals. Cameras are used in Atlantic County at traffic signals, but not to catch drivers running red lights, said Levinson.
The cameras, including ones at Tilton and New roads, are used for traffic management and also for photos of accidents to assist police with investigations, he said.
Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora said the municipality is not interested and will not consider implementing the red-light camera technology at local intersections.
"The most dangerous intersection in town at Barnacle and Mermaid doesn't even have a traffic light because DOT regulations won't permit it because it is located too close to the light on Mermaid," Moran said.
The red-light cameras have also been criticized for being cash cows for municipalities at the cost to the public, and that hurts the taxpayers, Spodofora said.
"I don't know whether it hurts or not, but don't run red lights and don't speed. This is not a cash cow if people don't break the law," Levinson said.
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