It's pretty unusual for a public official to choose principle over revenue. But that's what Brick Township Mayor John Ducey did last week, when he announced he was shutting down the township's red-light cameras.
Ducey did the right thing by ending Brick's participation in the controversial program. It couldn't have been an easy decision. In the last three years, tickets issued through the red-light camera program have contributed $2 million to the township.
And that, unfortunately, is why we probably won't see other mayors following Ducey's example. There's just too much money at stake.
Ducey said a review of the three township intersections with cameras failed to show that accidents had been reduced. At two of the intersections, right-angle crashes - the most serious kind - had increased.
It's just the latest evidence that the red-light camera program is more about enriching the companies that provide the cameras and the municipalities that host them than it is about increasing traffic safety.
Brick was among the first towns to install red-light cameras as part of the Department of Transportation's five-year pilot program. Cameras have been installed at 76 intersections in 25 municipalities statewide.
Drivers have complained that most of the $85-to-$140 tickets were being issued for rolling right-on-red turns, rather than to dangerous drivers who sailed through intersections.
The program was suspended in 2012, when it was found that many of the intersections with cameras had mistimed yellow lights, which did not give drivers enough warning time. That same year, a DOT report on 24 intersections with cameras showed that rear-end collisions had gone up by 20 percent, as drivers stopped short to try to avoid a ticket, and that medical, emergency-response and property-damage costs had increased.
And just last week, a former executive from one of the two Arizona vendors that provide red-light cameras in New Jersey said in a lawsuit that his company, Redflex Traffic Systems, had bribed officials in 13 states, including New Jersey. Brick's expiring contract is with the other company, American Traffic Solutions.
Whether or not those claims are true doesn't change the fact that the real money clouding the judgment of public officials is right out in the open. In the first six months of 2012, for instance, 16 cameras produced $3.7 million in revenue for Newark.
Which is why Brick Township's decision to forgo ticket revenue because it is collected in an unfair way is so noteworthy.
We wish other officials could see the path to that kind of righteousness and, when it comes to milking New Jersey residents with red-light cameras, just say no.