Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Jersey Launching Red Light Cameras

A controversial pilot program that uses red light cameras to catch traffic violators is about to get under way in New Jersey. Twenty-one municipalities from around the state have applied to the five-year program so far, but only 12 will be accepted for the first year, NJDOT spokesman Timothy Greeley told 1010WINS. Towns will be notified if they are accepted into the program beginning this month.

The devices take digital photographs of vehicles that run red lights or otherwise disregard traffic signals. A color copy of the photo, along with a ticket, is mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner.
Towns must first pass local ordinances approving the use of the cameras before applying to the state program. State officials review each application to see that it meets criteria, including whether other accident-reducing methods have been explored and whether a town has accurately timed street lights.

Municipalities selected for the program will be allowed to install traffic cameras at high-volume intersections.

The New Jersey towns will join more than 300 U.S. communities in 25 states that use the cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They are used in major cities such as New York, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.

Opponents of the cameras criticize the practice as a clandestine surveillance method that infringes on civil liberties and denies drivers the right to contest a traffic ticket issued by an unseen accuser.

Motorists who fail to obey traffic signals in New Jersey get two points on their license and face fines ranging from $85 to $140. Those caught by a camera would get similar fines but no license points.

A survey earlier this year by the AAA Clubs of New Jersey found that about 3 of every 4 Garden State drivers supported the use of cameras to catch drivers who run red lights. AAA polled 1,000 drivers.

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