In his fight against Red Light Cameras, State Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, R-13, is using a recent Patch report to demonstrate, if not the ineffectiveness of the burgeoning technology, the way municipalities and camera operators manipulate data to serve their own interests and not those of the citizens.
An investigation by Lawrenceville Patch about a Red Light Camera installed at a busy intersection in Lawrence Township revealed that accidents there have nearly doubled in the seven and a half months since being turned on when compared to the same time period of the previous year.
The revelation comes as more municipalities, including Shrewsbury, are in discussions with the state and camera companies to bring Red Light Cameras to their towns. At the same time, O'Scanlon has introduced legislation aiming to stop the spread of the Red Light Camera program in New Jersey.
Not only did rear end collisions increase at the Lawrence Township intersection, but so too did right angle crashes and t-bone wrecks, the kind of sometimes deadly accidents companies like American Traffic Solutions claim their cameras prevent.
Of course the increase in accidents could be chalked up simply to variation, a coincidental spike unrelated to the installation of the cameras, but if municipalities and Red Light Camera companies are going to use decreased accident stats as proof that the program is successful, they need to acknowledge when the opposite happens.
"I'm not going to be as disingenuous as the municipal officials and camera company spokespeople and manipulate or misrepresent what these statistics tell us," O'Scanlon said in a release. "Those officials take every instance of a reduction in accidents and claim that the cameras work - no matter how statistically insignificant the data might be. If we were going to play their game, our headline would scream: 'Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents by 100 (percent)!'"
In Shrewsbury, Councilman Tom Menapace said the borough has been in discussion with ATS over the camera service, though it has not made an official decision on whether to enter the program. While O'Scanlon claims that no new towns are permitted to join the program - 25 towns were permitted by the state Department of Transportation to enter on a pilot basis - it hasn't stopped the discussion from taking place.
Public discussion about pursuit of the camera program at Shrewsbury's two busiest intersections, Route 35 and Sycamore Avenue and Route 35 and Shrewsbury Avenue, has tapered off in recent months, though the town hasn't indicated that it's dropping the idea. Menapace said in a previous interview that research still needed to be done to determine if Red Light Cameras were the right fit for Shrewsbury.
O'Scanlon said the cameras aren't a right fit for any town.
"What we can say is that we are finding, and will continue to find, exactly what has been found in other states and jurisdictions that have experimented with these devices over the past several decades - basically that these cameras don't increase safety, and in many instances reduce it," he said. "What these cameras do is give these private companies and governments the ability to pull money out of our pockets in the name of safety."
While, officially, safety is the name of the game, many believe the Red Light Cameras are just a money grab. In the less than eight months the cameras have been installed in Lawrence Township they've led to more than $1 million in citations. Of that total, Lawrence splits it with ATS, a private company, which also charges towns for expensive maintenance and operation of the camera. Should the Red Light Cameras work as intended and stop people from running red lights, or getting caught turning on red, the town is still on the hook for those extra fees in perpetuity.