TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - New Jersey's red light camera system will remain in place as it, at least for now.
The sponsor of a measure to reform the system has put it on hold after police and engineering officials called for changes to rules about the duration of yellow lights and the elimination of tickets for failing to make a complete stop before turning right on red.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Sayreville, tabled any reforms after witnesses at a Monday Transportation Committee hearing said some of the proposed reforms conflict with law enforcement policies.
Officers from Union Township, Rahway, Linden and Woodbridge said a provision that would waive penalties to drivers who turn right at red lights without stopping would limit their discretion to issue tickets.
"Please don't take away our enforcement tool,'' Sgt. Robert Christie of Union Township told the panel. "We're trying to promote good driving habits.''
Christie echoed other officers who cite studies that suggest increases in accidents at red light camera intersections are likely the result of aggressive drivers who follow too closely and have little to do with the cameras.
Wisniewski said he decided to hold the bill after officers explained that many accidents have no connection to the cameras. He also said he considered holding the bill after officers explained that not every driver who gets caught in the red light camera's flash is issued a ticket.
An officer who reviews video of the violation determines if the owner of the vehicle gets a ticket.
Officers said they should continue to have the discretion to ticket drivers who fail to stop at a red light before tuning right, pointing out that such a turn is against the law.
The red light camera system is designed to ticket drivers who violate traffic laws by snapping a photo of the vehicle and mailing a citation to the vehicle's owner.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation reported that 83 intersections in 25 municipalities used the system as of last May.
The red-light cameras are so unpopular in New Jersey that at two intersections in Newark, the cameras have been damaged by gunfire.
A yearlong study by the department found that all types of crashes at intersections with red light cameras were reduced by more than half, but that it was still too early to determine the effectiveness of the program.
The bill also would increase the duration of some yellow lights based on a formula by a national highway research program. But traffic engineers testified that the standards should be made by the transportation department.
Last fall, Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon proposed a measure to increase the length of yellow lights at intersections by a second and give drivers a half-a-second grace period.
On Monday, transportation engineer Douglas Bartlett suggested the panel should wait until the Institute of Transportation Engineers set an industry standard to determine the length of the lights.
He also said it is important for the duration of the lights to be consistent so as not confuse drivers.
Wisniewski said it would be difficult to keep yellow light durations standard throughout the state because of varying speed limits and intersection sizes.
Wisniewski said he would meet with law enforcement and traffic officials to determine what kind of changes will be made. He said he could not be sure if it the bill would advance during the current legislative session.
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