By John Burton
State Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon is not letting up on his battle against the red light camera program and wants the program eliminated.
“I’m not going to stop. As long as people’s lives are in danger and people are unjustly being punished I will be unrelenting,” he vowed.
O’Scanlon, R-13, made those comments while discussing his recent criticism leveled at the state Department of Transportation (DOT) report on the program which analyzed two year’s worth of data from two Newark intersections and 12 months of information from 24 other locations.
O’Scanlon contends the state report offers a skewed take on the findings to put the program in a positive light.
“In order to say something positive about the pilot program here in New Jersey, you have to torture the data to the point it’s irrelevant,” he said.
The report concluded that the safety data were promising and it showed a decrease in right-angle crashes.
Scanlon has been waging this war for a while now, voicing his objections to the traffic safety pilot program, approved by the Legislature in 2009. It is slated to run for five years.
“For me it’s a justice thing,” he said last month. “Government shouldn’t be designing rules to rip people off.”
He charges that the program is unjustly issuing violations for cars traveling through the camera-manned intersections. This may be being done with the government acting – perhaps unintentionally – in collusion with the private industry managing the cameras, according to O’Scanlon.
The assemblyman has also alleged yellow lights are incorrectly calibrated, shorter than the law allows, so motorists are being photographed running red lights and are therefore subject to unwarranted summons. The result, he said, is the program is failing to make intersections any safer and might actually be making some even less safe.
The pilot program has been operating in 25 municipalities throughout the state at roughly 100 intersections that DOT spokesman Joe Dee said, “have proven to be problematic in terms of crashes and severe crashes.”
None of those intersections are in Monmouth County, where O’Scanlon lives and his legislative district represents 16 of the county’s towns. The closest intersections to the area are in Woodbridge in Middlesex County and Brick, located in Ocean County.
While the issue doesn’t directly affect his district, O’Scanlon said there is a bigger issue at hand. “If we’re not going to have rational regional traffic laws,” he said, “people are going to lose respect for law on every level.”
American Traffic Solutions, with its U.S. headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., installed the cameras and operates them. The system works when the traffic signal turns red, not yellow, with the cameras photographing motorists driving through an intersection or making an illegal right turn on red. Traffic citations are then mailed to the car owners, said Charles Territo, vice president of communications for American Traffic Solutions.
“The bottom line is that cities and municipalities using red light setting cameras have seen a significant reduction in the number of violations being captured and the number of crashes and injuries,” Territo said in response to O’Scanlon’s allegations.
Local governments have been using the devices for about 20 years. Currently there are about 7,000 of them in operation around the U.S., he said.
O’Scanlon’s most recent criticism is leveled at the newest DOT report that O’Scanlon called “wholly statistically invalid.”
The report found the pilot program should continue until it sunsets in 2014, giving the Legislature sufficient data to debate continuing and expanding or canceling the program, the DOT’s Dee said.
While O’Scanlon contended “there’s an agenda on someone’s part,” given the “unwarranted positive spin” in the report to support the program, he wouldn’t offer any hints as to who was behind the agenda. However, he said he didn’t think it was on the “commissioner level.”
O’Scanlon said the program “cannot go on (until 2014) in its present form. It should be killed right now.”