No More Red Light Cams, for Now

New Jersey motorists won't have to worry about any more towns adding red light cameras at intersections, at least until the end of next year.

The state Transportation Department announced Thursday that no new locations would be added to the list of 76 red light camera intersections in 25 towns under a pilot program that's due to end as early as December 2014. The DOT said in a release that a minimum of two years is required to provide enough data from the cameras to gauge whether they are effective at reducing accidents at intersections.

The DOT had capped the number of towns eligible to install the cameras at 25, but about 50 more towns had sought to join the program, DOT spokesman Joseph Dee said Thursday.

"While many municipalities have expressed interest in participating in the program and have submitted applications concerning specific intersections, none of these applications will be considered for inclusion in the program," the DOT's statement said.

The program began in 2009 as a way to determine if the cameras promote safety by reducing the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes. Last June, officials suspended the program for a month after determining that 63 of the cameras were not tested to ensure the yellow lights were timed in accordance with the law.

The program has been the target of legal action as well. Last month, a preliminary $4.2 million settlement was reached in a class-action lawsuit filed against the company that installs and monitors the cameras, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions. A federal judge must still approve the settlement.

Last week, both sides recommended appointing a retired federal judge as a special master who would visit camera locations in New Jersey and ATS's back-office operations in Arizona, as well as observe how municipal police officers in New Jersey evaluate data received from ATS in issuing violations.

Under terms of the settlement, ATS would set up a $4.2 million fund to pay plaintiffs. The company is not admitting any wrongdoing or liability. The class-action lawsuit filed last year claims the lights did not take into account average road speeds and did not give drivers ample time to hit the brakes. 

Anyone who was ticketed before August 2012 in any of 18 towns and paid the fine would be eligible to receive money back. The 18 lead plaintiffs who joined the original lawsuit would be eligible for compensation up to $200, while countless others likely would receive far less. 

ATS also agreed to make an educational video about the cameras and how they operate, and post it on township websites and on social media.

Charles Territo, an attorney representing ATS, said in an email Thursday that the red light camera program "has been an effective tool for law enforcement to use to reduce red-light running in the Garden State. Intersections with cameras have seen a 44 percent decrease in the number of violations captured. Additionally, nearly 86 of vehicles that received a violation did not receive a second, indicating a change in driver behavior. We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor's office and the legislature to enhance the program, and this lifesaving technology."

Just last month, Callari said that about 50 percent of the pictures snapped at intersections don't result in summonses.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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