In 2010, Newark, New Jersey, collected more than $3 million in fines based on the watchful (and programmed) work of red-light/amber-light intersection cameras. The next year there were even more violations.
Politicians love these Orwellian devices, while citizens remain extremely suspicious.
New Jersey recently suspended ticketing based on the results from 63 of the state’s 85 intersection cameras. It seems that these specific cameras (including all those in Newark) had not been properly configured according to the specifications set by the enabling legislation.
A Star-Ledger report neatly explains the calibration method, which requires intersection speed studies to set the proper duration of the amber lights. Figuring caution-light duration based on actual intersection speeds, not on posted speed limits — that is, the average actual speed of 85 percent of drivers — would seem to have something to do with safety. The 85 percent rule is an old highway safety engineering standard, and safety is allegedly why governments are involved in this at all.
A problem, though: This compliance procedure is great for setting speed limits, but in this case, wouldn’t it punish slower, legal drivers on streets where people tend to drive faster than the limit? Were the overwhelming majority of folks to speed through intersections, that would correspondingly lower the duration of the amber lights. Consequence? The folks most likely to receive tickets would be those who drove slowly through the intersections.
Hardly a good idea. As one driver commented, “Virtually from green it turns into red.”
More telling against the cameras is the increase in infractions, suggesting that the robotic cameras do not have a net instructional effect.
That is, they don’t make intersections safer.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.