Red Light Cameras Controversial in New Jersey

According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (“DOT”), the state is putting a stop to the installation of any new red-light cameras.  The cameras are currently installed at 76 intersections in 25 communities.  The DOT explains that it takes two years worth of data collected at intersections where the cameras have been installed to reliably assess their effectiveness – more time than is left before the pilot project expires in December of 2014.

The data so far has been mixed. Accidents are actually up slightly at the 24 intersections around the state where cameras have been in place for a year, but down substantially at the two intersections where they were installed two years earlier. According to a report issued in November by the DOT, the total number of accidents at 24 intersections where the cameras had been in place for one year had increased by 0.9 percent (from 577 to 582) from the year before they were installed. The number of rear-end collisions at those intersections rose 20 percent – from 286 to 343 – while the total cost of damage resulting from all accidents rose by $1.2 million.  The report, however, also found that at the two intersections in Newark where cameras had been in place for two years, the total number of crashes fell by 57 percent, from 47 to 20, when comparing the second year of installation to the first. Total estimated costs of the crashes also fell, by $268,900.

The DOT has explained that its decision not to install any new cameras was based strictly on the lack of time to collect reliable data before the pilot program expires.  At the end of the pilot project, the DOT will make a recommendation on the cameras based on at least two years worth of data at all of the intersections.

A recent report from the Florida Department of Traffic Safety and Motor Vehicles shows that out of the 73 communities that currently have red light cameras installed, approximately 56% have experienced a drop in the number of accidents at these intersections.  Florida officials have an explanation for this: motorists who know that they are being watched by red light camera systems and are likely to be cited for violations and are much more careful about how they drive.  They are much less likely to run a red light when you know that the intersection is equipped with a camera that is recording your every action.  Opponents, however, argue that red light cameras cause people to stop abruptly for fear of being issued a ticket, resulting in more rear-end collisions.

We are interested to see how the New Jersey DOT analyzes this data.  In the meantime, the controversy over the camera systems is likely to die down anytime soon.