Safety Paramount In Red Light Camera Proposal

It’s good to see the juices are flowing over my proposal to determine if so-called “red light cameras” would be good for New Jersey.

Everybody seems to have an opinion, one way or the other.

I guess it’s because all drivers face the same decision when they see that amber caution light flash – whether to speed up and rush through or slow down and stop.

The way I see it, a lot’s at stake in the decision as far as real-life safety is concerned and that’s the whole motive behind my bill, S-2123, pure and simple.

I’ll let the philosophers decide whether a falling tree makes a sound in the forest if no one’s around to hear it crash to the ground.

But what I do know is that it’s still a reckless decision to run a light at a dangerous intersection- when no one appears to be watching- and that the all too frequent deadly outcomes are crushing to families.

If you want to put the danger in the context of your own family, just ask yourself whether you would support a proposal if you knew it could spare your daughter’s car from being rammed broadside at a high rate of speed by some thoughtless driver who is in a big hurry.

Or, how long would it take you to tolerate ticketing-by-mail for someone who is willing to risk crashing into your grandson who just got his license to drive?

If it wasn’t so ludicrous, it might be amusing to entertain the notion that a camera might violate a bad driver’s privacy right to run a red light when no police officer is at the scene. Incredibly, there are some people who want to protect the ability of those who would willfully commit potentially deadly acts when no one is watching.

And what is it with these people who are suggesting that my proposal fosters a behavior modification mentality of Big Brother with a camera? What’s wrong with changing bad behavior like driving with disregard of those nearby?

I don’t know how audacious it is to actually make innocent people safer from bad drivers. But I know it’s the right thing to do. And, I believe it’s worth taking a look at a system that’s working in more than 200 communities in 22 other states.

First of all, municipalities would have to express an interest in the 18 month pilot program to even be considered for selection by the Department of Transportation.

Once an intersection is selected, signs would be posted on every street leading into it alerting drivers to the monitoring system in place. This pilot proposal is meant to gauge the impact of red light cameras in preventing accidents at dangerous intersections. It’s not a covert spying operation that wants to intrude on non-driving related behavior.

It’s not a replacement for police officers either. But the police can’t be everywhere and what’s wrong with finding ways to free up law enforcement resources for fighting violent crime instead of writing traffic tickets?

Some concern has been raised about drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid getting tickets. I believe education about the presence of cameras at intersections will wipe out that concern in no time. Plus, the so-called angle accidents common at intersections and statistically far more dangerous than fender-benders will be greatly reduced, in my opinion.

According to the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, in 2003, drivers running red lights caused more than 200,000 accidents resulting in 934 deaths and 176,000 injuries. Yes, these tickets bring in revenue, but fines also serve as deterrents.

Once I introduced this proposal, I got word that groups like the National Safety Council, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the International Association of Chiefs of Police were behind me all the way.

Those who have expressed support to me about this proposal are fed up with the aggressive driving they encounter every day on the way to work, to the store or just to go visit friends. They tell me not to give up because they believe the really aggressive drivers will calm down once they know a camera could catch them in the act.

If everybody drove safely and looked out for each other on the highways, there would be no need for this proposal. But, like everybody knows, the real world doesn’t work like that anymore.

And, the way I see it, safe drivers have rights and somebody should be sticking up for them too.

Senator Coniglio represents 38th District which consists of the Bergen County communities of Cliffside Park, Edgewater, Elmwood Park, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Hasbrouck Heights, Little Ferry, Lodi, Paramus, Ridgefield, Saddle Brook Township, South Hackensack Township and Teterboro. He is the Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee and also serves on the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee.