The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that nearly ¼ of all traffic accidents in the US are caused by drivers running red lights, killing roughly 800 people costing roughly $7 billion dollars in property damage, medical bills, lost productivity and insurance hikes. As a result, many local towns are installing red light cameras which are automated devices to collect evidence the authorities need to prosecute drivers who run lights. The red light camera system measures the speed of the vehicle using loops in the pavement and then uses that speed to determine if the vehicle will be able to stop before the intersection. The camera takes two photographs – one of the vehicle just before entering the intersection with the light showing red and a second photo, taken one or two seconds later, showing the vehicle in the intersection. The photographs are date and time stamped and include data such as the speed of the vehicle and the amount of time that passed between the light turning red and the vehicle entering the intersection. If a camera catches a driver running a red light, the police will mail them a ticket, along with a photograph of you running the light. Worldwide, red light cameras have been in use since the 1960s and in the US since 1990.
New Jersey suspended its red-light camera program over questions about the accuracy of the devices. Under national standards, yellow lights are expected to stay lit one second for every 10 mph — or 3.5 seconds in the case of an intersection where the speed limit is 35 mph. In NJ, the speed must be determined by the speed at which 85% of the road’s traffic move rather than the actual speed limit – this is the strictest timing provision in the country. Cameras that have been tested to be accurate are still in use, and cameras that have not tested accurate are not in use, according to the State Department of Transportation. The Courier Post reports that the State DOT identifies 63 of the 85 red light cameras in NJ have not been tested to ensure that the yellow lights were timed correctly.
Towns where at least some of the existing red-light cameras will be temporarily suspended are: Newark, Linden, Wayne, Palisades Park, Union Township, Springfield, Roselle Park, Rahway, Englewood Cliffs, Pohatcong, Piscataway, Edison, East Windsor, Lawrence, Cherry Hill, Stratford, Monroe, Brick, Glassboro, Jersey City, and Woodbridge. The 22 cameras that are in compliance include 12 in Jersey City (all but the one at the intersection of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Communipaw Avenue), three in Woodbridge (all but the one at Route 1 and Avenel Street), four in Gloucester and one each in East Brunswick, New Brunswick and Deptford.
The Courier Post reported this week that rear end crashes have increased by 20% since the cameras have been used. The suspicion is that drivers who are nervous about being caught on camera may be stopping at intersections too quickly.