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Red Light Camera Program Suspension Spurs Debate [AUDIO]

Last month, Governor Chris Christie’s Administration announced the suspension of the Red Light Running Automated Enforcement Program (RLR) until most of the towns in the pilot program can certify that the timing on the yellow light signal conforms to the prescribed statute.

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Some are wondering if the program should be completely terminated primarily because they believe cash collected through tickets issued as a result of cameras catching violators is all towns really care about.

“The cameras will still be recording,” explains State Department of Transportation commissioner Jim Simpson, “They can still monitor. They can take the picture, but (towns) can’t mail summonses until they re-certify the timing…..If we find out that the re-certification indicates the timing was correct, then if a citation was pending the citation will be issued even if it occurred during the suspension…..I think the important thing is never run a red light. Okay?”

New Jersey’s acting administrative director of courts is now giving a second chance to drivers who have already paid their fines. Those motorists can seek to reopen the case if the ticket was issued at one of the 63 intersections under review.

There is a bi-partisan movement in the legislature to repeal the red light camera program altogether, but not everyone is on board. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the sponsor of the bill that created the pilot program still believes in it.

“There are things that can be done to refine this program,” says Wisniewski. “That was the whole goal in creating a pilot program…..If the single criticism here is that towns are making too much money, we need to address that…Would the opposition to these cameras be the same if there were no revenue component?”

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle thinks the opposition would be the same. She explains, “The reality of the program is that it has not made, you know, New Jersey roads safer…..I don’t think it needs to be studied any more. We should just ban the cameras altogether.”

Vainieri Huttle is a Democrat as is Wisniewski. She is sponsoring a bill to scrap the red light camera program. Republican, Mike Doherty sponsors a similar measure in the State Senate.

According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) the suspension order affects 63 of the 85 intersections statewide where red light cameras are operating or have been approved for operation. It affects all locations in 19 participating municipalities and one intersection in each of two other municipalities.

NJDOT, which is administering the five-year pilot program, has ordered that the issuance of new violation summonses be suspended at the 63 intersections because it has come to the attention of the Department that the pilot program legislation specifies a formula to determine the proper duration of the yellow light in a traffic signal that differs from the legally required, nationally accepted formula that NJDOT or municipalities use when installing traffic signals. The difference in the formulas may or may not require a longer duration for the yellow light.

NJDOT commissioner Jim Simpson says, “Engineer to engineer you’re splitting hairs, but our job is to implement the law as written specifically.”

NJDOT has notified the 21 affected municipalities of the variance in the formulas and has directed each to perform an analysis that conforms to the formula in the legislation.

Simpson says he has, “Directed the affected municipalities to conduct their traffic analyses and submit certifications to our Department no later than August 1 (2012).”

If the analysis shows that a signal does not display a yellow light long enough to meet the formula in the legislation that intersection will be removed from the pilot program.

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