A new report by the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group finds red light camera companies that are hired by different municipalities may include clauses in their contracts to penalize towns that don’t issue a certain number of red light tickets.

NJ PIRG Advocate Jen Kim says the report, titled Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public, recommends that “if red light and speed cameras are going to be used in New Jersey, there need to be strong ground rules to protect taxpayers and drivers.”

She says if cities are going to hire a private industry red light camera company “the contract should never provide an incentive, based on the number of tickets – we think better contracts are more flat-fee for service contracts…cities should only really consider these camera systems as a way to increase safety, and never as a way to increase revenue.”

Kim adds “alternative means of preventing injuries and accidents should be considered and implemented before we get to red light cameras – like increasing the length of yellow lights at intersections by one second….we’re lucky that New Jersey hasn’t seen the same level of controversy over red light cameras as states like California, Arizona and Texas has. We want to make sure New Jersey is learning from the problems that have happened elsewhere so they don’t happen here.

Tom Herrmann, the Director of Public Relations for Redflex – one of the red light camera companies operating in the Garden state, says “safety is the first goal – we have no control over the enforcement and over whether a ticket is issued in a particular case.”

When asked specifically about the PIRG report that finds incentive clauses are built into some contracts – that call for a certain number of tickets to be issued – he replied “what any particular contract might say, I couldn’t go into that.”

Herrmann stressed that “when it comes down to the number of tickets that are issued at a particular location, we have no control over – A – the choice of that location, or – B -whether a specific incident is determined to be a violation and a ticket is issued…photo enforcement programs have been found to be entirely Constitutional by 5 different U.S. circuit courts of appeals…these are legal programs, they’re effective programs…and in the 14 largest cities where red light cameras have been used, 159 lives were saved over a 5 year period – violations went down by 24 percent and they also determined that if cameras had been used in every American city with 200 thousand or more people, another 800 lives would have been saved.”

You can read the NJ PIRG report online.