Beginning on Thursday, August 6, 2009, Nassau County on Long Island initiated a red-light camera program, with cameras placed at two intersections to videotape motor vehicles running red lights and send tickets to the vehicles owners. It has now come to light that the cameras are not just catching red light violators they are also issuing $50 “robo-tickets” to motorists who make right turns on red without coming to a full stop. And the 19 legislators who voted unanimously for the red-light camera program are claiming that they are shocked, shocked to learn this.
Studies including one by Congress have shown that the red-light cameras can increase rear-end accidents by motorists braking quickly to avoid a ticket. The tried and true way of reducing accidents at notoriously dangerous intersections is to lengthen the lights yellow time. Figures from the county show that 4,500 summonses had been generated by the cameras since they went into operation and 60 percent of those were for right-turn violations, as of the morning of September 4th. Perhaps this is why County Executive Thomas Suozzi said the program will help raise $2 million for Nassau this year and is expected to reach $20 million next year. However, Suozzi administration officials said that the cameras would reduce the number of more serious side-impact accidents that occur when a motorist runs a red light and is hit broadside.
The cameras are operational at 18 intersections with plans for 32 more. The cameras are activated when a car passes over a sensor while the light is red. The workers who monitor the cameras are alerted and tell the computer to either issue a summons or not, depending on what they see. Interestingly, the cameras use video instead of a snapshot, increasing its reliability. The first intersections where the cameras began operating are Atlantic Avenue and Lawson Boulevard, Oceanside; Stewart Avenue and Central Avenue, Bethpage; and Merrick Road and Park Boulevard, Massapequa. Cameras were installed at 18 intersections in August.
This past weekend Nassau County announced that it was adding 13 more intersections to the program, becoming operational at 12:01 a.m. Friday, September 4th. The additional locations are: Baldwin – Grand Avenue & Merrick Road; Bellmore – Newbridge Road & Bellmore Avenue; Hicksville – Broadway/ Hicksville Road & Old Country Road; Hicksville – Old Country Road & Jerusalem Avenue; Hicksville/Plainview – Old Country Road & South Oyster Bay Road; Inwood/Lawrence – Nassau Expressway & Rockaway Turnpike; Island Park – Long Beach Road & Austin Boulevard/Empire Boulevard; Massapequa Park – Merrick Road & Park Boulevard/Harbor Lane; North Wantagh – Wantagh Avenue & Old Jerusalem Road; Oceanside – Long Beach Road & Daly Boulevard; Oceanside – Long Beach Road & Mott Street; Uniondale – Earle Ovington Boulevard & Charles Lindbergh Boulevard; and Woodmere – Peninsula Boulevard & Woodmere Boulevard. One thing Nassau County has apparently not considered is what happens when the camera’s proof of a violation is sent to the vehicle owner and his wife wants to know the name of the blond passenger.
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