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Study: N.J. Red-Light Cameras May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

20 Percent Rise In Rear-End Crashes; Lawmaker: They're Ripping Off The Public
Broad and Market Streets in Newark (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

Broad and Market Streets in Newark (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Red-light cameras have been touted as the solution to a leading cause of accidents, but a new study shows they might be causing more problems than they are solving.

As CBS 2’s Don Dahler reported Tuesday, the New Jersey Department of Transportation analyzed two dozen intersections that have had red-light cameras for at least a year.

The study showed accidents are on the rise.

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At the 24 intersections studied, accidents increased to 582 from 577, and specifically rear-end collisions shot up 20 percent to 343, from 286 the prior year.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

New Jersey State Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon Jr. (R-Red Bank) has been a long-time critic of the cameras.

“What we’re doing is we’re causing people to act erratically, and through some level of paranoia that they might get a ticket,” O’Scanlon said.

The red-light cameras are so unpopular in New Jersey that at two intersections in Newark, the cameras have been damaged by gunfire.

“It’s making us worse drivers, because if you have to, if you stop short, you’re going to get hit in the back,” one motorist said. “And then you’ve got to take the light, and then you’ve got to pay for the ticket. Bad, very bad.”

“Usually if it’s a yellow light you’re allowed to proceed but people get nervous. They slam on the brakes and people hit them from behind,” one driver explained to 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.

Another motorist told Dahler she would “not at all” be surprised at a study that says the cameras make intersections more dangerous.

One of the two companies that run the red-light cameras in New Jersey released a statement: “Over time red-light safety cameras reduce the number of red-light running violations and decrease the most deadly collisions commonly attributed to red-light running.”

In fact, two intersections in Newark saw a slight reduction in accidents. But O’Scanlon said those are the exceptions.

“The data tell me that this equipment is doing nothing but ripping off millions of dollars from the people of New Jersey, and as a bonus, making our roads less safe,” O’Scanlon said.

But the state study did was not entirely sour on red-light cameras. The study said while the cameras are seeing more drivers rear-ending other cars, they have cut the number of serious right-angle crashes.

The Transportation Department study also shows that with time, drivers get used to cameras and the number of tickets drops significantly. In the two Newark intersections that had cameras for two years, citations went down by 85 percent from the first month cameras were used to the 24th month.

Overall, the number of crashes rose by less than 1 percent and the costs associated with the crashes were calculated to have gone up by $1.1 million.

In the two intersections with two years of data, right-angle crashes — which are attributed to red-light running — were down by 86 percent.

The state said more study is needed because the sample size is small.

There are now more than 80 cameras in place across the state.

Earlier this year, the state’s red-light camera system was suspended because of a timing issue.

To give people more time to react at intersections, Assemblyman O’Scanlon and the National Motorists Association want the length of yellow lights in New Jersey to be increased by one second.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)