Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tiny Town's Big Winner? Red-Light Cameras

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tiny Town's Big Winner? Red-Light Cameras

Article excerpt

Preoccupied as we were with other issues on Tuesday, such as staying warm while picking the leader of the free world, it's not surprising that some of us overlooked an extraordinary North Jersey election in which a tiny town voted overwhelmingly to keep red- light cameras that thousands of drivers have come to hate.

Unlike the popular vote in the Obama-Romney contest, this one was a landslide. Fifty-six percent of tiny Pohatcong Township voted to keep the cameras that trigger mail-in tickets to owners of cars that pass through red lights at two heavily traveled intersections. The tally also was contrary to recent referendum results in Houston, Dayton, Albuquerque and other locations where voters resoundingly rejected cameras.

It wasn't the first time that voters in the little Warren County farming community (population 3,500) have broken with tradition. Last year, they elected New Jersey's youngest mayor - 22-year-old James Kern III, who called for the referendum but wisely chose not to take sides.

"I think the reason voters approved this referendum is simple," said Kern, now 24. "The cameras work. If they didn't, I'm sure our voters would have rejected them."

Indeed, both camera locations -- at Route 22 and New Brunswick Avenue and Route 22 and St. James Avenue -- have generated 27,000 tickets in little more than a year. More important, red-light crashes dropped 78 percent, and 87 percent of violators got only one ticket, suggesting that cameras changed driver behavior.

The town is one of 25, including Englewood Cliffs, Palisades Park and Wayne, that have signed on to a five-year state Department of Transportation pilot program that allows surveillance cameras at 85 intersections with high crash counts. Critics dismiss the reduced crash rates, noting that cameras cause rises in rear-end collisions and greed among municipal officials hungry for increased revenue. They also say the program would be less of a cash cow for towns if the DOT would allow lengthening the timing on yellow lights, which is generally three seconds.

These arguments have gained credence nationally in cities with cameras. But like Pohatcong, a small town in Washington State also approved cameras by a similar margin on Tuesday. …

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