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Accidents Increase at Red Light Camera Intersection

The number of crashes at Route 1 and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road has nearly doubled since the red light cameras were turned on there, according to police statistics, which also show over 9,000 tickets have been issued since November.

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:”

Fine Amount:

  • 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

Total: $140.

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

Nov ’11

Dec ‘11

Jan ‘12

Feb ‘12

March ‘12

April ‘12

May ‘12

June ‘12

July ‘12

Aug. ‘12

Sept. ‘12

Oct’ 12

Total

673

1,330

945

827

832

911

806

723

757

716

650

172

9,342

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

Number

Rear End

18

Right Angle

3

Sideswipe

2

T-Bone

2

Unknown

0

 

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

Number

Rear End

35

Right Angle

4

Sideswipe

3

T-Bone

4

Unknown

3

 

Monthly Revenue Received By Lawrence Township

Nov. 18 – Dec. 31, 2011

$24,606.25

Jan. 2012

$75,412.91

Feb. 2012

$70,988.16

March 2012

$67,842.39

April 2012

$54,681.50

Mary 2012

$52,385.50

June 2012

$33,296

July 2012

$18,724.50

Aug. 2012

$24,477

Sept. 2012

Not yet tallied

Total:

$422,414.21

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

Total: 10,436

Route 1 Northbound

Left Lane

361

Right Lane

320

Route 1 Southbound

Left Lane

370

Right Lane

272

Franklin Corner Road Eastbound

Left Lane

304

Center Lane

322

Right Lane

5,822

Bakers Basin Road Westbound

Left Lane

527

Right Lane

2,138

 

 

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Patrick October 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Yes the law is you have to stop... but given the nature of the intersection, to turn right on red safely you have to lurch forward to get a complete picture of traffic. Its not like it is a 25mph road, you have cars going 60mph so you need to me certain. And clearly this shows out in the fact that half the tickets are from this one turn.
Brian October 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
This exact same thing happened where I live in Arnold, MO. Unfortunately, the response of the city government and American Traffic "Solutions" was to reduce how many feet from the crossing of the roads constitutes an intersection so that fewer crashes would count against them. Instead of seeking ways to better engineer the intersections, they focused on saving face. This is what happens when a line item in the budget is given greater priority than the safety of your family and public safety is entrusted to a camera.
Chief Wahoo October 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM
These corrupt thugs just took over 1million dollars out if the local economy and gave half to a private company ..... And accidents as I knew they would still went up !!!!
James C. Walker October 16, 2012 at 03:33 PM
So, accidents nearly double with the predatory red light cash registers in place, and the police want "more data" before deciding whether to remove the accident-causing revenue devices. RIGHT. NOT. How long will it take before New Jersey residents demand an end to these predatory red light camera cash registers that are fully capable of increasing the accident rates? Note that increased accident rates with red light cameras are quite common: See http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/increase-accidents and be sure to read both the studies and the articles. And a large portion of the predatory revenue tickets are for slow rolling right on red turns or stops in the "wrong place". These tickets are prohibited in Tennessee with cameras. Most of them are illegal in Florida where there has to be a safety issue with THAT particular car for the ticket to be legal. In NJ it is just a rip-off fee. If you have had enough, contact your Assemblymen and Senators to ask them to ACTIVELY support and work tireless for the passage of both Senator Doherty's bill S1952 to ban the cameras entirely statewide, and Assemblyman O'Scanlon's bill A3285 to lengthen the yellows, reduce right on red fines, and provide a 1/2 second grace period before a ticket can be issued. Contact local officials to demand camera not be used in your area, or removed if in use now. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI
SHSB October 16, 2012 at 04:04 PM
According to the data presented, the most prevalent type of collision at this intersection before the cameras was a rear end collision--72% of collisions. Traffic cameras are not only ineffective against these types of collisions, they only make them worse, and we see that in the data presented here. These cameras never should have been installed--anyone looking at the raw data can see that the instance of accidents caused by someone running a red light and taking out another car in the intersection is small--5 at the most based on the data presented. Giving out tickets for the right turn on red is in no way making this intersection safer or preventing accidents. It's a cash cow, on the backs of Lawrence Township residents and those who work here. I know several people who use Princeton Pike now instead of Route 1, just to avoid this intersection. Perhaps the reduced traffic makes the intersection safer, but it puts more cars on Princeton Pike, passing by the schools, potentially making those areas less safe. But of course we can't shut down the cameras. Better we increase traffic by our schools and homes and continue to have double the number of rear end collisions. <roll eyes> Interesting thought about all the dollars being sent to AZ instead of being kept local.
Tom October 16, 2012 at 04:56 PM
“The ultimate goal [of the red light cameras] is safety." Hogwash! The ultimate goal is to increase revenue by creating a tax that they can hide behind "safety". People slam on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket and the car behind them slams into them. It happens at every single one of these type intersections. They don't decrease the number of accidents. They only increase the revenue to the locales.
vote you out October 16, 2012 at 06:47 PM
What additional information is needed? Revenue is up and its up more then expected. End of story. Safety is the smoke and mirrors. If you think your safety is valued over revenue your out of touch.
generalno October 16, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Posluszny said, “The ultimate goal [of the red light cameras] is safety..." Oh pulleeeze. Most folks are way past that little bit of balderdash. We all know the goal is money. And we know if elected city officials aren't thrown out, they'll achieve that goal. However, our lesson clear. More than 30 referendums across the nation have voted them out. Contracts restrict government discretion to set and enforce traffic regulations. Houston had to terminate its program and was ordered to pay a million dollars to the camera company for violating the contract. Eighty-six communities have squabbled then terminated their contracts. Fifteen states have banned them outright. Folks have caught on to the fact that scofflaws always find a way around law enforcement and good citizens never do. The simple fact is it’s difficult and cost-prohibitive for private citizens to file lawsuits that force cities to do the right thing. Our only recourse is the ballot box. Don't waste that right.
Edward Van Embden (Editor) October 16, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Great (and telling) story.
Michael Ratcliffe (Editor) October 16, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Republican who represents the state’s 13th Legislative District in Monmouth County, responded to today’s Lawrenceville Patch article about the statistical increase in accidents at the red light camera-controlled intersection of Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) and Bakers Basin Road/Franklin Corner Road by issuing a statement this afternoon saying that red light cameras are “not decreasing accidents as promised.” Read O’Scanlon's comments here: http://patch.com/A-yGwg
Patrick October 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM
And lets not blame the police here... Every cop I've spoken with about this blames DOT and they hate it and think its a giant time suck from doing their real jobs. Protecting and serving. And my own editorial on this topic is, this is what happens when you privatize governing.
Brandt Hardin October 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html
jeff October 17, 2012 at 02:12 AM
What you have to do is stop within one car length of the line then creep forward so you can see if its OK to go. Drivers just don't get that. But according to the scratchy data it doesn't seem that accidents are caused by improper right on red turns. Mister rich tear down these cameras.
JosephGhabourLaw October 17, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Whether or not you agree with this program, the reason the red light cameras were pulled was clear. The program requires the yellow phase of the light to be at least one second long for every 10 m.p.h. of the prevailing speed of approaching vehicles-- not speed limit. Many cameras did not meet this standard. With the program back in operation the issue is how will this guideline be adhered to?
Larry Rezzy Dent October 17, 2012 at 05:40 PM
"...this is what happens when you privatize governing." Bingo, Patrick. More profound than many realize, I think.
James C. Walker October 19, 2012 at 06:11 PM
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp This site will let you get the contact information for your particular NJ legislators. http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/ This is a page to contact Governor Christie. If enough people say "ENOUGH", the ticket camera programs can be ended. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI.

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