Tuesday, September 16, 2014
New Jersey Senate Committee Votes To Ban Out-Of-State Photo Tickets
Democratic and Republican members of the New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee are in full agreement on one thing: Red light cameras and speed cameras are about making money, not improving traffic safety. The panel on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure modeled after a South Dakota law that would immunize the state's residents from photo enforcement tickets issued by other jurisdictions. The measure, championed by state Assemblyman Declan J. O'Scanlon Jr (R-Monmouth), forbids the state Motor Vehicle Commission from cooperating with NLETS, the interstate motor vehicle information network that red light camera and speed camera companies use to look up the license plate and registration information on out-of-state drivers. Without this information, the ticket cannot be mailed. Two dozen towns currently use red light cameras in New Jersey under five-year pilot program that will expire before the end of the year unless a new law is enacted. Governor Chris Christie (R), after waffling on the issue, has indicated that he may not sign a bill to renew the program, even if one were to reach his desk. "I have concerns about it, and my inclination is not to continue it," Christie said in an August 28 speech in Sea Bright. O'Scanlon, the leading opponent of the cameras in the legislature, says the cameras are done in the Garden State. He wants to do more than just outlaw cameras. "Our program here will die a merciful death on December 16, but New Jersey should go further, which this bill will do, and stop us from being complicit in what amounts to theft from our motorists," O'Scanlon said Tuesday. "If our red light camera program here is a disaster for motorists and motorist rights, the programs in other states are catastrophic for those rights. They have even less checks and balances on them." O'Scanlon cited the Washington, DC inspector general's report (view audit) that found the program in the nation's capital was a "wild west" where tickets were mailed to individuals regardless of whether they did anything wrong. Chairman Nicholas J. Sacco (D-North Bergen) pointed to the the way Maryland and New York have specifically been placing speed cameras in areas designed to trap out-of-state drivers. "It just seems unfair, and we don't have them [speed cameras]," Sacco said. "So why should we have to enrich the coffers of states that have them? They're simply money-makers... South Dakota showed a lot of courage. I look at this as an abuse of New Jersey drivers and I'm happy that we all agree." A copy of O'Scanlon's bill is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Assembly Number A3527 (New Jersey Legislature, 9/15/2014)
Monday, September 15, 2014
Florida: Red Light Camera Ballot Battle Hits The Courtroom
Officials from the city of Brooksville, Florida have been conspiring with photo ticketing vendors to keep residents from having a say in whether red light cameras are used in the community. Patrick and Shirley Miketinac successfully filed a petition calling for a vote on a city charter amendment that would outlaw the use of cameras. As soon as the supervisor of elections certified that a sufficient number of petition signatures were valid, the city's leadership began coordinating with Sensys, the private company that runs the camera program, to block the Miketinacs' access to the ballot. "This is the answer from our lawyers," the head of US operations for Sensys, Carlos Lofstedt, wrote in a June 11 email to the Brooksville's city attorney and city manager. "'I agree that a lawsuit needs to be filed in order to try to prevent it from going on the ballot. It looks like they covered the bases.'" Brooksville filed the first lawsuit to block the election by arguing the proposed charter amendment impermissibly forbids the city council from doing something authorized by state law. This was followed by the formation of a camera industry front group, Keep Florida Roads Safe, on August 25. On the same day, the group filed a separate lawsuit to block the vote. "They claim it's a grassroots organization," Patrick Miketinac told TheNewspaper. "When they came to the case management hearing, there were only two lawyers -- maybe more, I'm not sure -- but not one blade of grass or a grass root anywhere to be seen, except for our people. We filled the courtroom." The front group was initially registered at the address of a sixteen-unit apartment building in Miami, four blocks away from the US office of the Swedish red light camera company Sensys. After WTSP-TV began investigating, the group filed corrected papers on September 5 that moved the headquarters to Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County. American Traffic Solutions, which holds the majority of photo ticketing contracts in Florida, admitted involvement in the group to WTSP. Patrick Miketinac believes the charter amendment language will hold up in court because it was drafted by Hernando County commissioners, who initially intended a countywide vote on banning cameras. He is also confident that residents are on his side. When he started going door-to-door to talk to neighbors, Miketinac found about nine out of ten people he approached supported the effort.. "Some people from a distance started running to try to hurry up and sign the petition," Miketinac said. A hearing is scheduled next month on the motion for a declaratory judgment on the petition's validity.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Maryland, France, Germany: Speed Cameras Shoved, Shot, Spraypainted
A police officer rammed a speed camera in Berlin, Germany last week Sunday. According to Bild, the patrol van was involved in an accident with another vehicle and spun into the camera mounted on a traffic island. In Centreville, Maryland, vigilantes on August 31 kicked over two speed cameras set up on Railroad Avenue, the Easton, Maryland Star Democrat reported. Both automated ticketing machines were unable to issue tickets until they were readjusted on September 2. Police have no idea who might be responsible. In St. Gerand-le-Puy, France, vigilantes shot a speed camera on the RN7, hitting it three times according to La Montagne. Also on Monday, a pair of speed cameras in Brittany were disabled. Ouest France reports that the automated ticketing machines on the N165 in Kervignac and on the D769 in Cleguer were spraypainted orange. In Condezaygues, green was the color of choice on Tuesday as vigilantes disabled the automated ticketing machine for the third time this year, according to Sud Ouest.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Federal Government Pours $25 Million Into New York Anti-Driving Campaign
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's controversial "Vision Zero" program of deploying speed cameras, reducing speed limits and massively ramping up the issuance of traffic tickets has received the blessing of the Obama administration. On Tuesday, the US Department of Transportation announced $25 million in federal gas tax funds would be given New York City Department of Transportation in support of the mayor's initiative. Last week de Blasio announced a major expansion of school zone speed cameras under Vision Zero. Additional privately owned and operated cameras will be deployed until the limit set by the state legislature of 140 photo radar units is reached. Additional revenue will come from expanding red light camera deployment to 150 high-volume intersections, all timed at the bare minimum 3.0 second yellow time allowed under federal law. "We're installing speed cameras in school zones citywide," de Blasio said at a news conference last week. "The last thing you want to worry about is a car speeding by and potentially endangering the lives of children. That's why this is such an important part of our Vision Zero initiative." So far this year, just twenty cameras have issued 183,000 tickets generating $9.2 million in revenue. At that rate, the full deployment of cameras would bring in $80 million in annual profit. In addition to the cameras, Vision Zero legislation lowered the city's default speed limit to 25 MPH. The city Department of Transportation created twenty-five "slow zones" and install 250 speed bumps. Traffic signals will be retimed to force drivers to hit more red lights. The new federal cash will covers thirteen specific projects including "traffic calming" items like speed bumps and the building of bicycle paths. The idea is to encourage residents to give up their cars and take other forms of transportation. "This grant will go a long way in making the city's Vision Zero initiative a reality and I thank Secretary Foxx for recognizing the need to invest in this critical effort," US Representative Joseph Crowley (D-New York) said in a statement. New York is just the start. US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week announced an eighteen-month campaign creating a "road diet" through which space for automobile lanes will be removed from roads around the nation so that they can be "redesigned to add space for bicycle riders and pedestrians."
Thursday, September 11, 2014
DC Speed Cameras Have Not Improved Traffic Safety
Washington, DC has been using speed cameras for more than a decade, but traffic safety has not improved. The city's private vendors have mailed more than 7 million photo tickets and collected a half-billion dollars in revenue, injury accidents have not declined as they have throughout the rest of the country. According to an analysis released in March by Howard University's Transportation Safety Data Center, there were 18,428 collisions in the city in 2012. Of these, 18 were fatal and 5258 involved injuries. Many of the photo radar units are stationed at high volume locations that are among the city's safest roads. The District has, for instance, speed cameras on Interstates 295 and 395, even though only 87 of those 18,428 collisions happened on an interstate, none of which proved fatal. The city's focus on speed enforcement does not match the District Department of Transportation's own statistics which show speed was a factor in only 3.1 percent of accidents. Red light cameras are also stationed throughout the city, even though red light running caused 2 percent of accidents, and right turns are red were implicated in 0.08 percent of collisions. At most the use of speed cameras could have an impact of 3 percent on the accident rate and red light cameras a 2 percent difference. Driver inattention, on the other hand, was the most frequent cause of a fender bender at 16.1 percent of incidents. The use of a cell phone, being distracted by passengers, interacting with loose cargo, reading behind the wheel (or by a pedestrian), interacting with a pet and personal grooming were all examples of common causes of an accident. Three collisions were caused while drivers or pedestrians were writing on a piece of paper. Nationally, accidents, injuries and fatalities have been on a steady decline. Between 2008 and 2012, the injury rate per mile traveled dropped 15 percent in the United States. The injury rate is 150 percent higher in the District, and the rate did not drop at all between 2005 and 2011 -- a steady 203 incidents per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (compared to 75 nationally). Washington only beat the national average in fatal accidents. With streets frequently gridlocked in the nation's capital, the most common types of accident are sideswipes followed closely by rear enders. The majority of incidents happen on a clear, sunny day during medium to heavy traffic. About 5 percent of accidents involve a pedestrian and 3.5 percent a bicyclist. Drivers holding DC licenses are involved in 37 percent of accidents, Marylanders 33 percent and Virginians 13.8 percent. A copy of the report is available in a 4mb PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Traffic Safety Statistics Report for the District (Howard University, 3/13/2014)