The number of motor vehicle collisions that occurred during the first 7½ months that the red light cameras were active at Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road was nearly double the number of accidents that happened there during a similar time period a year before the traffic enforcement system was installed at the busy Lawrence Township intersection, according to statistics provided by the township police department.
A total of 25 accidents (involving five injuries but no deaths) happened at or within 200 feet of the intersection between Nov. 18, 2010, and June 29, 2011 – before the cameras – compared to 49 accidents (nine injuries, no deaths) between Nov. 18, 2011, and June 29 of this year, the police department data shows.
While the reason for that increase is thus far unclear, it is something that the police department is watching closely,
“The ultimate goal [of the red light cameras] is safety. We’re trying to reduce accidents at that location,” Police Chief Daniel Posluszny said during a recent interview. “I don’t know if it’s caused by the red light cameras – that people have become cognizant of [the cameras] and they stop suddenly. There have been more rear-end accidents. It’s possible.”
Eighteen of the 25 collisions that happened during the pre-camera sample period involved rear-end impacts, while rear-end impacts factored into 35 of the 49 crashes during the sample period with the cameras.
“We’ll have to look at the data at that time and see. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to be more dangerous to the community. That’s not the intention of this program.” – Police Chief Daniel Posluszny
Posluszny cautioned that additional data needs to be gathered before any conclusions can be made. Another accident analysis will be conducted at the end of this year, after the red light cameras have been operational for a full year. (A crash in which a woman in a motorized wheelchair was hit and killed by a car at the intersection in August will be included in that analysis.)
“We’ll have to look at the data at that time and see,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything that’s going to be more dangerous to the community. That’s not the intention of this program.”
Lawrence Township is one of 25 municipalities taking part in the state Department of Transportation’s pilot program which, state officials said, “aims to determine whether red light cameras promote safety by reducing the frequency and severity of crashes at intersections that have a history of motorists running red lights.”
The township filed an application to take part in the program, offering Route 1 and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road as a suitable location for the cameras because it has historically been one of the worst intersections in the township for traffic collisions. There were 76 crashes there in 2011, and 53 in 2010, according to police records.
Following a 30-day test period during which only written warnings were issued to red light violators, the red light cameras at Route 1 and Bakers Basin Road began documenting violations “for real” on Nov. 18, 2011.
Between that time and Oct. 10 of this year – the most recent date for which statistics were available – tickets were issued for a total of 9,342 violations, according to the police department’s statistics.
Of the 10,436 tickets and warnings issued between Nov. 1, 2011, and Oct. 10 of this year, 5,822 came from the right eastbound lane of Franklin Corner Road.
Of the nine different travel lanes that approach the intersection, more than half of all violations for which tickets were issued came from just one lane – the right eastbound lane of Franklin Corner Road as it enters Route 1, those statistics show.
Traffic in that lane is only given the option of turning right to go south on Route 1. Posluszny confirmed that the majority of violations taking place in that lane involve motorists improperly turning “right on red.”
The statistics provided by the police department show that of the 10,436 tickets and warnings issued between Nov. 1, 2011, and Oct. 10 of this year – a period of time that includes part of the camera system’s initial 30-day test period – 5,822 came from the right eastbound lane of Franklin Corner Road.
(Another 2,138 of the 10,436 came from the right westbound lane of Bakers Basin Road, where motorists can either go straight or turn right.)
Right turns during a red light are currently legal at the intersection – as such turns are at many other intersections throughout the state – but a driver is required both to come to a complete stop before making the turn and to also make that stop at or within a car length of the “stop line” painted on the roadway.
Failure to come to a complete stop or making the required stop too far beyond the marked “stop line” will result in the driver receiving a ticket for a red light violation.
“The law is you have to stop,” Posluszny said. “If you stop anywhere on that stop line, we’re not giving you a summons. If you made a reasonable attempt and stopped at some point on that stop line, we’re not giving it.”
“The law is you have to stop.” – Police Chief Daniel Posluszny
A “fact sheet” published by the township soon after the cameras were installed last year explains how the system – which is operated and maintained by Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions – works:
The ATS camera system contains a digital camera and an additional video recorder. For every violation, the system takes two still digital photos. The first photo is at the stop line and the second photo is of the vehicle proceeding through the intersection. For each violation, a video clip of the violation is included with the violation package.
Motorists should note that since the digital camera has a sensor in the roadway near the stop line, there are numerous times that the camera flash will activate to take a photo. However, if the vehicle that activated the camera and flash does stop and does not go through the intersection in violation of the law, there is no summons issued. This is the reason why motorists often observe “flashes” when there is no vehicle running a red light.
After ATS reviews the incident and compares it to the guidelines for the Lawrence Township Photo Enforcement Program, they only forward potential violations packages on to the police department that violate the guidelines. A sworn police officer reviews each violation package to determine if in fact there is a violation of New Jersey law. If a vehicle is found to be in violation, then the officer issues the summons electronically and the summons is mailed out to the offender. It is important to note the summons is issued by a Lawrence Township Police Officer, not the vendor.
Statistics show that between Nov. 18, 2011, and Oct. 10 of this year, a total of 20,962 instances of vehicles crossing over the designated stop lines were documented by the camera system, but only 9,342 tickets were issued.
No summons were issued for the other 11,620 “events” because, for example, the vehicles involved either stopped before going through the intersection or were authorized to proceed through a red light (police, fire or ambulance unit going to an emergency).
In 175 cases, the license plates of the vehicles involved were obstructed or could not otherwise be read. In 59 instances, the camera flash did not fire properly.
More than a half-dozen township police officers have been trained to review the footage from the camera system. Posluszny said he has personally reviewed violation photos and videos and approved the issuing of tickets. He’s even testified in court over them.
“Many times what people tell you is ‘I stopped,’ when they in fact never did.” – Police Chief Daniel Posluszny
While many people go to municipal court with the intention of fighting a ticket, most simply admit they were wrong and pay the fine after being confronted with the photos and video footage of their violation.
“Many times what people tell you is ‘I stopped,’ when they in fact never did. The other argument is ‘I was rolling very, very slow.’ That be true; they may have been. But the law is you still have to stop, check to make sure it’s safe, and then proceed for a right turn on red.”
Noting that many believe it is unfair to ticket motorists who make a “rolling stop” or stop in the wrong spot before turning right on red, and that other motorists are so concerned about receiving a ticket that they anger the drivers behind them by not turning until the traffic signal turns green, state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence Township) recently introduced legislation that would make it illegal for drivers to turn right on red at intersections with red light traffic cameras.
The bill has been referred to the state Senate’s Transportation Committee for review.
Posluszny said he has no opinion “one way or the other” about Turner’s proposed right turn ban, saying that he and his police officers will enforce the law whichever why the state legislature decides it should be.
As for the red light cameras themselves, the chief conceded that “there’s been quite a bit of public opinion against them” but he again said it will be up to state lawmakers to decide whether the cameras should remain in use after the NJ DOT’s pilot program ends in December 2014.
Because the Route 1 and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road intersection is located in a state-designed “safe corridor” area, fines for red light violations are doubled. Each ticket costs the driver $140, but no “points” are assessed to the driver’s license. The following fine breakdown was provided by the township in its red light camera “fact sheet:”
- Lawrence Township $55 (double $27.50 due to stretch of road being a N.J. Safe Corridor)
- Mercer County $55 (double $27.50 due to stretch of road being a N.J. Safe Corridor)
Costs: Municipality $18.50
Mandatory Funds (ATS, ATSM, EMTFF) - $5.50
Special State Assessments:
- Body Armor Replacement Fund $1.00
- NJ Spinal Cord Research Fund $1.00
- NJ DNA Lab Fee $2.00
- Autism Medical Research and Treatment Fund $1.00
- NJ Brain Injury Fund $1.00
While Lawrence Township did not have to pay anything for the red light cameras to be installed, it must pay a monthly fee of $18,500 ($4,625 per "approach") to ATS to operate the system.
According to information provided by the police department, between Nov. 18, 2011, and Aug. 31 of this year the township collected a total of $422,414.21 in revenue – after sending the state its statutory fees, but prior to paying ATS its monthly fee and giving Mercer County its share – as a result of motorists paying fines for violations documented by the cameras.
Township Manager Richard Krawczun confirmed that, based on the numbers through August, the red light cameras are on track to generate more revenue than had been expected this year.
Posluszny noted that revenue collected in July and August was less than during previous months because of the hold that the state temporarily put on the issuing of tickets. It was on June 19 that NJ DOT ordered 21 of the 25 municipalities in the pilot program (including Lawrence) to conduct studies certifying that traffic lights at their camera-controlled intersections were in compliance with the state’s strict requirements for the duration of the yellow warning light.
The camera systems continued to document red light violations during that time, but municipalities were not allowed to send out tickets to drivers for those violations until after the state announced on July 24 that the light times were all in compliance.
Fine revenue for September and October have not yet been tallied, but the chief said he expects it will be significantly higher as many of the delayed tickets from June and July are paid.
Township Manager Richard Krawczun confirmed that, based on the numbers through August, the red light cameras are on track to generate more revenue than had been expected this year. In Lawrence Township’s 2012 municipal budget document, the “anticipated revenue” from the red light cameras was listed as $428,000, with expenses (monthly fee to ATS and shares to the state and county) listed as $328,000.
Krawczun said the township’s contract with ATS is set to expire in September 2014.
“Accident data is not a specific condition for termination but the contract does contain a provision ‘By mutual written consent of the parties.’ The township could consider exercising this condition due to safety concerns,” Krawczun noted when asked about the increase in the number of accidents that have occurred at the intersection.
But, like the police chief, he said additional data is needed before any decision can be made.
“Penalties and/or damages [for early contract termination] would most likely be reached through adjudication,” he said.
Should the state end the pilot program early, before the township’s contract with ATS expires, the township would only owe ATS for the period of service prior to the program’s end, Krawczun said.
Editor's Note: The following tables contain information provided by the Lawrence Township Police Department.
Red Light Violations - Tickets Issued
Note: The issuing of tickets did not begin until Nov. 18, 2011. This followed a 30-day test period for the camera system, during which red light violators received warnings only.
Note: October 2012 data is as of Oct. 10, 2012.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Area of Route 1 and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road
Nov. 18, 2010 – June 29, 2011
Total: 25 Injuries: 5
Type of Impact
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Area of Route 1 and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road
Nov. 18, 2011 – June 29, 2012
Total: 49 Injuries: 9
Type of Impact
Monthly Revenue Received By Lawrence Township
Nov. 18 – Dec. 31, 2011
Not yet tallied
Note: The amounts shown above are what Lawrence Township collected after sending the state its statutory fees, but prior to paying ATS its monthly fee and giving Mercer County its share
Tickets and Warnings Issued
Nov. 1, 2011 – Oct. 10, 2012
Route 1 Northbound
Route 1 Southbound
Franklin Corner Road Eastbound
Bakers Basin Road Westbound