Why you should care about red-light cameras

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. The website if pretty much up to date with all recent stories.
I’ve decided to re-print this opinion piece as it is really well written by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon. The original post can be found here.

Why you should care about red-light cameras: Opinion

More people approach me regarding the red-light camera issue than any other. Despite that level of passion — virtually all of it appropriately against the devices — there are still folks who say, “This is a minor issue,” or “Just don’t run red lights and you have nothing to worry about.” Those people are wrong on both counts.

Let’s agree that it wouldn’t be fair, or safe, to do away with yellow lights altogether, with lights changing from green directly to red. By the same token, yellow lights that simply flashed for a split second wouldn’t be fair or serve their purpose, to permit people who are too close to the intersection to stop, to have enough time to travel through safely.

So we must conclude that yellow lights should be of an appropriate and fair duration. Problem is, they invariably aren’t appropriate or fair at intersections with red-light camera. The lights are designed to entrap and fine reasonably behaving, law-abiding motorists.

Red-light cameras don’t improve safety. We know this from decades of data collected throughout the United States and Europe. If you watch videos of people causing major accidents at intersections, almost none are caused by scofflaws who blindly run red lights — they are you or me on a bad day, after a fight with our spouse or a screaming kid in the back seat, or worried about our jobs. If the prospect of death isn’t enough to stop someone from absentmindedly driving through a red light, then an $85 or $140 — or $5,000 _ fine isn’t going to, either.

Additionally, if you increase yellow light times at these supposedly hazardous intersections — as has been done with uniformly successful results in other states and municipalities — you reduce red-light running more dramatically than cameras do.

Given those facts, it is unquestionable that the devices are all about raising money. And here is why everyone should care about this issue. If we let our government pick our pockets with irrational policies and laws that aren’t based on any sound engineering or facts, just think of the Pandora’s Box that opens. How about 15 mph speed limits on every stretch of every road? How about a blanket prohibition on left turns? How about traffic lights in the middle of every block — or heck, every 100 feet — with cameras, of course. Would that be ridiculously arbitrary and outrageous? You bet. But it is simply taking the red-light camera program to its logical (or illogical) extreme. If we don’t demand our government behave in a reasonable, rational way taking into account the laws we can’t change, like those of physics, then we open ourselves up to government-designed and -sanctioned anarchy and oppression.

Unless red-light camera intersections are set up to entrap motorists with short yellow lights, there aren’t enough red-light runners to pay for the devices. Short yellow lights make intersections more dangerous, too. So in the name of ill-gotten revenue, we are actually sacrificing safety. The companies that sell red-light cameras know this. The officials presiding over and advocating for these insidious devices should, too. The camera companies are more than happy to sacrifice the health, welfare and lives of motorists to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing out of our pockets and into theirs. Some of that money is “invested” into the campaign coffers of passively corrupt elected officials — who then vote to keep the gravy train rolling, best interests of New Jersey residents be damned. It’s disgusting. And if we continue to permit them to so blatantly take advantage of us, we will only have ourselves to thank for their next attempts at picking our pockets — and endangering our families.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) of Little Silver represents the 13th Legislative District.

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