Last summer Nassau County on Long Island initiated a red-light camera program, with cameras placed above intersections to videotape motor vehicles running red lights and making right turns on red without coming to a full stop. $50 tickets are then sent to the vehicles owners.
In its first year the program has generated more that $10 million from nearly 260,000 violations 1 for every 5 county residents and more than $13 million is expected in the year 2010. However, although the purpose of the cameras is to reduce motor vehicle accidents by placing them at high-accident intersections, questions are being raised whether the cameras have been placed at high-traffic intersections instead.
The legislation approving the red-light cameras required that a report analyzing the proper placement of the cameras (high-accident vs. high-traffic intersections) which report was due on June 1. The report, nonetheless, has not yet been completed. Nassau County officials said that the report has been delayed in order to have more data to analyze. The report for 2009 is now expected to be ready by the end of September. There are presently 32 intersections in Nassau County with cameras.
The law allows up to 50. Critics of the red-light cameras contend that though the cameras my reduce T-bone crashes, they might increase rear-end collisions as drivers approaching yellow lights suddenly slam their brakes. Perhaps critics are also not too fond of the conviction rate of camera violations compared to red light violations issued by a law enforcement officer 90% to 85%. Well soon see how serious Nassau County is about placing cameras at intersections to promote safety rather than to maximize the collection of fines.
We may also see whether a retired district court judges challenge to the legality of the program fares. He is challenging the law as violating the constitutional right to confront an accuser. How can you cross-examine a traffic light? But since the proceeding is not a criminal matter, the constitutional right might not apply.
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