Friday, June 22, 2012

Moneymaker on ‘up-and-up’?

Photo courtesy of
The motoring public is fed up with all the shenanigans that are tied to ATMs, or automatic ticketing machines. Earlier this week, officials in New Jersey asked a lot of questions about the integrity of an enforcement tool that has raked in millions of dollars.

In the Garden State, the question is whether red-light cameras employed around the state have adequate yellow times.

Concerns about whether everything is on the up-and-up spurred the New Jersey DOT to suspend the doling out of tickets at 63 of the 85 intersections statewide that employ the money-making devices.

A 2009 state law permits towns to post cameras at problem intersections to see if the devices reduce the frequency and severity of crashes most common by red-light runners. However, agency officials say the DOT has not checked to make sure the cameras are timed in accordance with the law.

Officials in Cherry Hill, NJ, likely have not been too concerned about yellow time at the city’s lone intersection outfitted with cameras. The community across the river from Philadelphia reportedly has raked in about $1 million in the year since the devices were activated.

To recap: That is $1 million at one intersection.

Until the yellow time issue is resolved, the agency ordered 19 of 25 participating municipalities to stop issuing tickets at all affected intersections – including Cherry Hill. Two more municipalities have one intersection affected.

Not surprisingly, cameras will continue to operate during the review period. If a camera is found to be in compliance, tickets from that camera will be issued. As of Aug. 1, any cameras found to be out of compliance will be shut down.

Some state lawmakers are calling the DOT’s decision a good start, but they believe a permanent ban is necessary.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, said what was initially intended to help promote safer roads has potentially promoted the opposite.

“I’m sure there are many drivers who’ve felt pressured to speed up or slam on their brakes so they don’t get caught on camera going through a red light,” she said in a statement. “If the yellow lights are improperly timed, these cameras present a double safety threat.”

Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Washington, said that if safety is truly the goal, there are simple steps that towns could take to fix dangerous intersections. He suggested increasing the length of yellow lights and adding an all red cycle.

“The fact that simple fixes continue to be ignored while ticket revenues continue to flow into town coffers makes you wonder if safety is really the goal,” Doherty stated.

In addition to Doherty’s call for appropriate yellow times, governments’ goal should be to keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible. If safety is the main objective communities should be pursuing intelligent traffic lights that actually monitor and are triggered by traffic flow.