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Worthwhile Program Or Significant Money Grab? Study Of Red Light Cameras On Long Island Yields Mixed Results

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A three-year study is out about how those controversial red light cameras are working out on Long Island.

The results are mixed.

Long Island Red-Light Camera
A red-light camera component on Long Island. (Credit: CBS2)

It's certainly a talker. Rear-end crashes at Suffolk County's 100 current red light camera intersections increased 60 percent, but fatal crashes and those involving injuries decreased 11 percent, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Thursday.

A drop in deadly and serious accidents means the cameras are working, according to Paul Margiotta of Suffolk's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency.

"The study makes very clear that serious physical injury and fatal accidents are down at these intersections. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to save lives and save people from being seriously injured. That's the purpose of these cameras," Margiotta said.

FLASHBACK: Report Shows Drop In Revenue From L.I. Red Light Cameras, More Rear-End Crashes In Suffolk County

Controversy over the program spurned a study commissioned by the Legislature. Proponents point to more recent crashes because there are more drivers, more vehicles, and an epidemic of distracted drivers due to cellphone use. They claim the controversial program is aimed at reducing accidents.

MOREEnd In Sight For Red Light Camera Confusion On Long Island

But some Republican lawmakers and drivers McLogan spoke with question if the cameras work as well as some say, while others call it a money grab, simply a way to generate $20 million in revenue for the cash-strapped county.

"I am calling for an immediate suspension of the program," Suffolk County Legislator Rbert Trotta said. "A 60 percent increase in accidents is unconscionable."

"The red-light cameras, it is a joke. It is a joke," Ridge motorist Alex Acevedo said. "It is not saving lives. It's all about money. It's all about revenue, and it needs to stop. We the people need to stand up for ourselves if the government won't stand up for us."

Multiple aggravated drivers told McLogan they have paid their red light fines. Katrina Green of Patchogue said right-turn-on-red tickets are not about saving lives.

"Everybody's getting tickets because nobody knows you have to wait a certain amount of seconds before you're allowed to turn," Green said.

Legislator Sarah Anker pressed for the study three years ago and is disappointed with the report.

"What this report is lacking is information on distracted driving," Anker said. "We need a better understanding of what we can do as legislators to make our roads safer."

A public hearing on extending the red light program in Suffolk another five years will be held in July and is expected to be heated.

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