By Brenda Flanagan
We’re at Broad and Murray in Newark, watching cars run the red light. Some speed up to do it, some bang a left and run the red. And look — here’s a two-fer. Are drivers doing this more often because bags now cover the red light cameras — the program’s ended and nobody gets tickets?
“Honestly, no. It’s difficult enough to drive in a crowded city,” said one resident said.
When asked if she thinks more people are running red lights now, another resident said, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. They’re not worrying about the tickets.”
Redflex Traffic Systems covered the Newark cameras after New Jersey lawmakers refused to renew the state’s red light camera pilot program last December. But the system’s still operating, according to the Traffic Safety Coalition’s Nick Juliano.
“The cameras are out there right now and they’re still able to gather the data,” said Juliano.
Sensors embedded in the street gauge traffic speed, relative to the red light cycle. They tally violations, even though there’s no incriminating video. The raw data shows — after cameras got covered — the number of drivers running red lights jumped 315 percent at Broad and Murray, 294 percent at Doremus and Wilson and 243 percent at McCarter and Lafayette compared to the same month with cameras rolling last year.
“Traffic safety cameras change driver behavior,” said Juliano. “Our coalition, including our partners, are in favor of efforts of the legislature to revive the cameras. That’s legislation supported by mayors and their police depth because we see what’s happening now that the cameras have gone dark.”
Juliano’s coalition is funded by red light camera companies, which claim several cities in New Jersey wanted to keep counting violations even after the program officially ended. He says four towns have reported a spike in violations.
The cameras earned $16 million for Newark during the program and $13 million for Reflex. The city says it saved lives and prevented accidents. But red light camera opponent Declan O’Scanlon claims this whole coalition campaign is a sham.
“They will supposedly leave their equipment operating and then essentially makeup numbers to suggest red light running has gone up since the equipment was shut off. We know that is demonstrably false, that does not happen,” said O’Scanlon.
He says it’s a ploy to regain lost revenue by claiming the cameras prevented accidents. The coalition couldn’t provide accident data.
“Certainly accidents don’t go up when the equipment goes dark,” O’Scanlon said.
Our cameras shows drivers do still run red lights. Whether that’s because the red light cameras are covered and whether the intersections are indeed less safe, that remains to be determined.