Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Friday, 14 August 2009 00:00
In conjunction with National Stop on Red Week (Aug. 2–8), Nassau County recently launched Phase I of its red light camera program. In April, Governor David Paterson signed the state legislature’s red light camera bill into law and authorized the installation of up to 50 cameras at various intersections. On Aug. 6 at 12:01 a.m. the first of three were activated.
According to officials, the locations of the cameras were chosen after analyses of automobile accidents were conducted by Nassau County’s Police and Public Works Department; American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the red light camera vendor, reviewed the intersections for viability.
The red light cameras are triggered when an automobile drives over a sensor in the ground that has been placed a certain distance from the traffic light. The camera will take digital images of a vehicle’s license plate as it runs a red light and a citation will be sent to the vehicle’s registered owner. The driver will not be penalized with points, and therefore, plea bargaining will not be permitted; however, drivers will be permitted a hearing should they wish to have one.
Tickets will cost red light runners $50, which is expected to bring in $4 million in total revenue to the county for the remainder of this year and $20 million next year. Nassau legislators approved the measure in an effort to ward off $12 million worth of service cuts. Essentially, the revenue from ticketing red light runners could help the county get out of its financial hole while significantly reducing vehicular accidents.
“We have placed these cameras at the county’s highest-risk intersections. These red light cameras will improve both driver and pedestrian safety. They will deter drivers from speeding through intersections and posing a serious danger to everyone on the road,” said County Executive Tom Suozzi. “This will help us reduce the number of car accidents, deaths, and injuries, and it will give us the tools we need to go after reckless drivers who put others at risk. I thank the members of the county and state legislature who pushed this important initiative forward.”
Effective Aug. 6, the following two intersections included in Phase I were equipped with red light cameras: Stewart Avenue and Central Avenue in Bethpage and Atlantic Avenue and Lawson Boulevard in Oceanside. Effective Aug. 13, the following intersections were equipped with red light cameras: Merrick Road and Milburn Avenue in Baldwin, Merrick Road and Bellmore Avenue in Bellmore and Merrick Road and Merrick Avenue in Merrick. The remaining intersections in Phase 1 will be equipped with live red light cameras Sept. 1. Phase 2, the second group of 20 intersections, will be complete by Dec. 1 and the final 10 intersections will be complete by mid-January 2010.
A website to promote awareness of where the cameras are located was created and drivers can view an up-to-date list of intersections as well as other helpful information about the red light camera program in Nassau County online at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/TPVA/rlc-intersections.html.
Legislator Dennis Dunne, Sr. (R-Levittown) said of the planned Levittown red light location at Wantagh Avenue and Old Jerusalem Road, “There’s so many accidents there from people running the light.”
“If that is going to do the trick, than I’m all for it,” he added.
“By installing these cameras at our highest risk intersections across the county we are saving lives,” added Legislator Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale).
According to a 2007 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost 900 people were killed and an estimated 153,000 injured nationwide as a result of people running red lights. Additionally, one person dies from every 100 red light related accidents.
“State and local agencies have found that the use of red light cameras can reduce red light running by motorists and, more importantly, reduce the number of crashes attributable to red light running,” said Thomas M. Louizou, regional administrator for the United States Department of Transportation – NHTSA Region 2. “The reduction in the number of crashes is especially important as crashes caused by motorists running red lights are, on the average, more deadly and damaging than other types of crashes at signalized intersections.”
Louizou added, “NHTSA applauds Nassau County for the innovative use of technology to make our roads safer for all highway users.”
James Tuton, president and CEO of ATS, said that through the implementation of a red light camera program, “Nassau County is demonstrating its commitment to innovative and cost-effective solutions to save lives while enforcing traffic regulations.” According to Tuton, “ATS shares that commitment and is excited to be Nassau County’s partner in providing a law enforcement tool that is proven to improve roadway safety by reducing the crashes, injuries and fatalities related to red-light running.”
Prior to passage of the bill in Nassau, New York City was the only municipality in the state with Albany’s permission to install red light cameras – and the results have been dramatic. The city reported a 73 percent drop in violations between 1994, when the cameras first went up, and 2005. Additionally, the city reported a 41 percent reduction in collisions and 35 percent drop in vehicular fatalities. Philadelphia, which also has red light cameras, reported a 72 percent reduction in violations between March 2005 and July 2006.
“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that red light runners are responsible for an estimated 260,000 crashes each year in the United States, of which 750 are fatal. There is substantial evidence that red light cameras deter red light violations, particularly where red light running is rampant,” said Robert Sinclair, media relations manger for the American Automobile Association (AAA). “Further, surveys show that greater and greater numbers of motorists support the use of such devices. In fact, surveys conducted by our association indicate that nearly seven in 10 members favor the use of red light cameras to enforce red light violations. Our association has always held the view that visible law enforcement officers are the most effective means of deferring traffic violations. At the same time, however, we have recognized the potential of red light cameras to perform critically important enforcement functions, thereby enhancing traffic safety.”
• Baldwin: Grand Avenue and Merrick Road – eastbound and westbound; Merrick Road and Milburn Avenue – southbound and northbound
• Bellmore: Bellmore Avenue and Merrick Road – eastbound and westbound; Bellmore Avenue and Newbridge Road – southbound and northbound
• East Meadow: Merrick Avenue and Glenn Curtiss Boulevard – southbound and northbound
• Hicksville: Old Country Road and Hicksville Road – southbound and northbound; Old Country Road and Jerusalem Avenue – westbound and northbound; Old Country Road and South Oyster Bay Road – southbound and eastbound
• Inwood/Lawrence: Austin Boulevard and Empire Boulevard/Long Beach Road – northeast bound and southwest bound; Nassau Expressway and Rockaway Turnpike – northbound and northeast bound
• Levittown: Wantagh Avenue and Old Jerusalem Road – southbound and northbound
• Merrick: Merrick Road and Merrick Avenue – eastbound and westbound
• Oceanside: Long Beach Road and Daly Boulevard – southbound and northbound; Long Beach Road and Mott Street – southbound and northbound
• Uniondale: Earle Ovington Boulevard – southbound - and Charles Lindbergh Boulevard – eastbound; Earle Ovington Boulevard – northbound - and Charles Lindbergh Boulevard – eastbound
• Woodmere: Woodmere Boulevard and Peninsula Boulevard – northeast and southwest