"Big Brother" is watching you, New Jersey drivers...more than ever. And, you're going to pay.

Shortly, the print and TV pundits will start taking a look back at 2011.  They'll sum it up in a glittery phrase.  I'd like to be the first to suggest for New Jersey: "2011: The Year Of The Red Light Camera."

The ticket-issuing cameras aren't new, especially here in the Garden State.  But, the number of them in our daily commute has exploded over the last 12 months!  The state Department Of Transportation says that the cameras are part of a 5-year program (started in 2008), and as of earlier this year, they were placed in at least 24 towns.  Further, the D-O-T says the on-going program is designed to see whether red light cameras promote safety. 

As more cameras seem to appear daily, I find myself scanning every traffic light intersection as I approach.  If I see "Big Brother," I start to pray that the light won't turn yellow...so that I don't have to make that split-second decision to risk a ticket, or slam on my brakes, and risk getting rear-ended.  And, I'm not alone, judging from your calls to the hosts here at New Jersey 101.5.

The red light camera means fast cash for cash-strapped towns.  Newark netted $500,000 between December 2009 and April 2010.  The most recent figures come from Pohatcong Township (Warren County).  Since the cameras went online at several locations along Route 22 at the end of September, Pohatcong police have issued 2,500 tickets.  At $85 apiece!  You do the math. The ticket money is divided between the town, the state, and the red light contracting company.  And, there are companies ready to profit from our pain: from on-line sites that will tell you where cameras are located and the fines levied (how can they possibly keep up?), to vendors selling "red light camera" and "speed camera" detectors, to lawyers dedicated to fighting your red light ticket.

How about this as a year-ending headline: "The Year Of Safe Jersey Roads"

Maybe in 2013.

Have you been issued a ticket from a red light camera? Just fed up? Sound-off, below.