Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlan is challenging red-light camera companies to allow their cameras be taken down, without penalty by any municipality where traffic data proves a legitimate safety concern.

Red Light Camera Speed Tests (Staff photo: David Matthau)

Charles Territo, vice president of communications with American Traffic Solutions says it's far too early for the case to be closed on the impact of red-light cameras.

"Many local officials believed the companies' sales pitch that promised red light cameras would increase safety," says O'Scanlon. "Now that towns are gathering data that casts real doubt on those numbers, I call on any company truly motivated by safety to permit municipal officials to remove cameras from intersections where those officials have found there to be a net decrease in safety after the cameras were installed."

Territo responds, "This program was set up as a five-year pilot program by the (New Jersey) legislature and the (State) Department of Transportation (DOT) for a reason. It takes time to gather data about the impacts of the program and that's exactly what's going on right now. Many of the programs in the State of New Jersey aren't even a year old yet and so it would be premature at this stage to make or come to any conclusion about the impact that the cameras are having overall."

"We've heard over and over that this is a safety issue," adds, O'Scanlon. "If that's truly the case, it's time for camera companies to put their money where their mouth is and allow towns to remove cameras without penalty no matter what their contract stipulates."

Territo points out, "The DOT already has the authority to rescind the permit for any and all cameras operating in the state if they believe the cameras aren't achieving the desired safety goals."

According to a recent Lawrenceville Patch story, a total of 25 accidents happened at or within 200 feet of the intersection between Nov. 18, 2010, and June 29, 2011 - before the cameras - compared to 49 accidents between Nov. 18, 2011, and June 29 of this year (after the cameras were installed). Rear end accidents went up by 100 percent, right-angle accidents went up by 33 percent and T-Bone accidents went up by 100 percent.

"I find it troubling that these contracts don't universally allow removal of cameras without financial penalty due to safety concerns," explains O'Scanlon, "Apparently unless municipal officials specifically ask for such a stipulation the camera companies are happy to sign contracts without it. That is, quite frankly, outrageous since these companies know there are many instances where crashes and injuries have gone up after these cameras have been installed. They are happy to profit from municipal officials' trust -even if it might force a municipality into the untenable position of choosing between the safety of New Jersey motorists or busting their budgets to pay penalties."

Territo points out that in the DOT's most recent report, "They say that while there's still evidence that needs to be collected, there is a great deal of data that shows that red-light cameras are having a positive impact on safety in New Jersey."

"If camera companies don't offer to remove cameras at intersections that have become more dangerous, they will reveal their true colors and be admitting that they care about their bottom line more than they do about the safety of New Jersey motorists," says O'Scanlon. "There should be no reason why we can't get a definitive statement from these companies on this within 24 hours. If they really care about safety this is a no-brainer."

"One thing that we have seen across the board in the State of New Jersey is a reduction in the number of violations being issued," says Territo. "That's a signal that driver behavior is changing……….In New Jersey, more than 95 percent of individuals who have received a violation one time don't receive a second……No one ever said that cameras are going to stop people from running red lights altogether. Just like no one said that a DUI checkpoint is going to stop people from getting drunk and driving home."

O'Scanlon has been a leading advocate against red light cameras, sponsors legislation that would end the state's pilot program, or, failing a repeal, another measure that would ensure a more fair system for motorists.