New Jersey's five-year red light camera pilot program will come to an end Dec. 16 unless legislation is passed to continue it, and Gov. Chris Christie then signs the bill into law.

Red light cameras
Red light cameras (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)

Right now, that appears to be very doubtful, with Assembly Transportation Committee chairman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) telling the Associated Press last week that it's unlikely a new bill can be moved in the next calendar year. With the issue not completely settled, however, the legislature's top opponent of the program is blasting the red light companies -- and local officials in towns where the cameras are operating -- for suggesting the devices promote safety.

"What they're saying is ticket rates are going down, so that must mean safety is being improved," said Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Red Bank). "The problem is, that's not true."

O'Scanlon said citation rates are dropping for drivers at red light camera intersections for a variety of reasons.

"They're avoiding these intersections altogether, transferring any hazard that goes along with them to their alternate route, or they're just deciding never to make a safe right turn on red," he said. "Red light cameras are not changing the behavior that causes accidents. (They are) just another sign of the desperation of these people to want to be able to continue to steal motorists of New Jersey's money."

He said the bottom line remains the same: Red light cameras do not improve safety.

"We have 20 years of data on this, and every single objective, competent study that has been done of red light cameras and their safety has shown they do not improve safety," O'Scanlon said. "The people causing red light accidents are you and I on a bad day, a screaming kid in the back seat, worried about work, trying to get where you're going. It's people spacing out and not paying attention, and red light cameras are not going to change that."

O'Scanlon also said that in many towns where red light cameras are now in operation, crash rates have not decreased. He cited Springfield as one town where right-angle crashes have actually doubled. And in Linden, the cumulative severity cost of accidents has gone up by more than $300,000.

The program was temporarily suspended in New Jersey in 2012 over concerns about the timing of yellow lights, and a federal settlement awarded partial refunds to 500,000 violators nationwide.

"Sane state officials have come to the conclusion that we should let the red light camera program come to an end on Dec. 16 -- Merry Christmas, everyone -- but the camera companies will no doubt come back and try to argue that accident rates have gone up when the cameras are removed," he said. "We've seen them blatantly lie about the data before, and they'll probably try to do it again."

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