NJ considers halting red light camera program despite safety gains

Many drivers who live and commute near Milltown, New Jersey, have driven through intersections with red light cameras or even received a ticket from one. The goal of these cameras is to reduce speeding and light running, which can in turn help prevent intersection-related car accidents. However, some state lawmakers believe the camera program should be halted or allowed to expire at the end of this year, which could encourage motorists to revert back to dangerous behaviors.

Gains from red light cameras

Intersection accidents are a significant problem across the country. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, a 2008 NHTSA study found that over 2.3 million intersection-related crashes occurred in one year, resulting in over 7,000 fatalities and 730,000 injuries. Speeding, meanwhile, contributes to roughly a third of all fatal motor vehicle accidents annually, according to the same source.

Red light cameras can address both of these problems, and according to an article from the Times of Trenton, they appear to be doing so in New Jersey. A report from the state Department of Transportation uncovered the following trends over two years in intersections where red light cameras were installed:

  • Overall crashes dropped by 27 percent.
  • Rear-end crashes decreased by 7 percent.
  • Right-angle or T-bone crashes fell by 60 percent.

In some intersections, the number of drivers caught running red lights was cut in half after cameras were installed.

The report did not track personal injury or fatality trends, so it is impossible to predict how the cessation of the program might affect these occurrences. However, it is reasonable to expect that the decreases in certain accidents and red light running might be lost if the red light program is halted.

Calls for cessation of the program

Some New Jersey lawmakers believe the red light program is unconstitutional or question its effectiveness. They cite statistics showing that right-angle crashes also decreased in control intersections observed during the same time, suggesting that the cameras were not responsible for the accident reduction. Some critics believe that camera installation raises the risk of rear-end crashes by making motorists stop short at yellow lights, even though the DOT data indicates that the opposite is true.

The program has already been halted in some areas because of various issues, including a class-action lawsuit over short yellow light times that generated wrongful tickets, according to the Times of Trenton. In December 2014, the laws that permit municipalities to operate the cameras will expire if lawmakers do not choose to extend the program. Unfortunately, this could result in more drivers disregarding speed limits and running lights, putting other motorists at a heightened risk of serious accidents.

Anyone who has been harmed in an intersection accident involving a driver who was speeding, disregarding traffic signals or otherwise acting negligently should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss seeking compensation.