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Are Red Light Cameras On Long Island Endangering Lives?

Many residents of Long Island, in both Suffolk County and Nassau County, have been furious about the installation of Red Light Cameras at major intersections. We wonder what the purpose of this program was in the first place. According to The Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Agency, “the safety program focused on changing driver behavior at red light intersections through a comprehensive effort involving engineering, education and enforcement.”

But some believe this program has nothing to do with safety. According to an article posted by Newsday on Red Light Cameras, some argue that the program was designed “primarily to bring in revenues to help balance the county budget.” There are conflicting reports on whether or not these Red Light Cameras are truly helping to increase safety. Some intersections with cameras have seen a decrease in accidents, while others have seen a steep increase.

The Statistics

Last year’s report found that:

  • “The frequency of rear-end accidents rose by 42 percent overall, with 69 intersections registering increases.”
  • “The frequency of right-angle accidents, or T-bones, decreased by 21.6 percent through 2014 compared with the three-year period before cameras were installed. The frequency of right-angle accidents increased at 34 intersections.”
  • “Two intersections in Commack had the most significant increase in injury crashes since getting cameras. The injury accident rate more than doubled to 19 per year at Commack Road and Dorothea Street, and at County Road 14 and NY25.”
  • “The cameras generated 444,008 tickets in 2014 and motorists paid $33 million in citations. The county paid its vendor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, $9.5 million in 2014, the county report said.”

So, at some intersections with Red Light Cameras, we’re seeing a very transparent increase in accidents. Why is this? What’s creating this increase? Some say it could be an increase in the behavior of distracted driving. Others may believe that this program is scaring people at major intersections, that people are slamming their breaks when the light turns yellow because they are afraid of getting fined. There may not be any surefire way to know if Red Light Cameras are the main reason behind these accidents. But the reports should at least spark speculation and reevaluation.

Has The Timing Of Yellow Lights Been Tampered With?

An article posted by CBS2 on Red Light Cameras elaborates on some statements made by both Long Island residents and County Lawmakers. One Long Island man complained that the duration of the yellow light has been shortened. ““All of a sudden it turned orange, OK, the last second, and it turned red immediately,” said red-light camera ticket recipient Darren Elkins. “So there is no time for you to stop.”” According to the article, Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta calls it a trap. ““This is about raising revenue without saying, ‘Oh we’re raising taxes,’””. Trotta is a former police officer.

Trotta isn’t the only County Legislator who believes the duration of yellow lights have shortened. But at the same time, County officials say that yellow lights have not been tampered with.

If they have been shortened, however, to “lay traps” as Trotta believes, Long Island drivers are being presented with a dangerous change they were not made aware of. We have the timing of yellow lights engrained in us as drivers. Most of us know when it’s safer to drive through a yellow light than to stop short. We have to make rash decisions on the road. Making any changes to traffic lights without the public’s knowledge or consent endangers lives.

But this information that the duration has changed, whether true or not, can create paranoia. People may be far too paranoid to run yellow lights (even when it’s safer than stopping) for fear of getting a ticket.

Even so, we’ve seen an increase in accidents at some intersections, and a decrease at others. Again, there’s no surefire way to attribute Red Light Cameras as the primary cause of this increase in accidents. But given that we’ve seen an increase in accidents at intersections with cameras should incentivize County Lawmakers to rethink this program. According to an article posted by News 12 legislators say that they are drafting a bill that would end the program.

No matter what, it’s up to us to pay attention to our driving habits. We must fully stop at stop signs and red lights, obey the “No Turn On Red” rule, and come to a slow stop at yellow lights when possible. The rules of the road were created to make it safe to drive…to save lives. Make it a goal to keep your driving record as clean as can be.