Home » Would Speed Cameras Boost New Jersey Traffic Safety?
Featured News Technology Transportation United States

Would Speed Cameras Boost New Jersey Traffic Safety?

New Jersey was one of 34 states that received a mediocre grade from a national safety group for lacking seven safety laws, including use of red light and other enforcement cameras and for laws that bar police from stopping a vehicle when back seat passengers aren’t wearing a seat belt.

The “caution” grade, in the form of a yellow traffic light, was issued to the state by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Tuesday as part its 2024 annual report grading state safety laws.

A good grade or “green light” was issued to six states, including neighboring New York, for having the most or working toward enacting the recommended safety laws. No state has enacted all the 16 “optimal” laws recommended in the report.

New Jersey received good marks in two categories for its impaired driving and distracted driving laws. The state got a caution ranking for child safety and young driver laws and a red or “danger” rating for not permitting automated speed enforcement, similar to past rankings the state received in 2021 and 2022.

“Some critical laws are needed, primary enforcement of seat belt laws, people need to buckle up in the back seat,” said Cathy Chase, Advocates president during a live streamed event. “The other laws lacking is in the teen driver graduated license (practice hours) and the use of automated enforcement.”

New Jersey law prohibits the use of speed cameras. The report said 26 states and Washington D.C. have laws allowing automated enforcement and 20 states have some form of camera enforcement in use. A pilot program in New Jersey using red light cameras at select intersections ended in Dec. 2014.

The Advocates are an “alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, safety groups and insurance companies and agents working to improve road safety,” according to its website.

The state also was criticized because it’s seat belt law for back seat passengers can only be enforced if the vehicle is pulled over for another primary violation, which 21 states and Washington D.C. have. The bill proposed by State Senator Holly Schepisi is still waiting for a hearing by the senate law and public safety committee. A companion bill in the assembly also is still waiting for a committee hearing.

Two bills are pending in the state legislature that would change that. They have the support of a student safety group that formed at Indian Hills Regional High School in Oakland.

The student group also educates other teens about the importance of seat belt use, said Jill Fackelman, an Indian Hills drivers education teacher to NJ Advance Media.

“When you hear from a peer, you’re more likely to put into practice,” she said. “We know in terms of seat belt use, (unbelted) individuals in rear seats become back seat bullets and can harm themselves, other passengers and the driver.”

Students started a peer to peer teen safety club four years ago to increase seat belt use, called “click-clack, front and back” that has 30 members, Fackelman said. They focused on back seat passenger belt use after they realized it was not a primary (enforcement) requirement, she said.

The club had sponsors of the state’s senate and assembly bills speak to the class, including Assemblyman Robert Auth, R- Passaic, who did a FaceTime call with Gov. Phil Murphy in class about the issue, Fackelman said. Both Schepisi and Auth told the class they planned to reintroduce the bills I the next legislative session.

“The Click Clack Club is doing a fantastic job,” Chase said.

A drivers’ advocacy group said they preferred education over primary enforcement of back seat belt use laws.

“We support the status quo of secondary enforcement since the law is very clear that rear seat belts shall be used and that’s what needs to be emphasized,” said Steve Carrellas, National Motorist Association state policy director.

Current vehicle design, high vehicles such as SUV’s and legally tinted rear-side windows, “make it even more difficult to determine if rear passengers are wearing seatbelts, making enforcement almost impossible,” he said.

Primary enforcement could also lead to “intrusive enforcement,” he said.

“Despite the legislative intent not to expand law enforcement’s reach, we already know such intent seldom translates to practice,” Carrellas said.

No bills are pending to reinstate red light cameras or to allow speed cameras since a 2014 red light camera pilot program ended.

The advocates grade on automated camera enforcement came the same day that a Governor’s Highway Safety Association report said camera programs are “a proven way to change driver behavior and increase safety. Automated enforcement can “supplement traditional traffic enforcement while addressing potential inequities, since cameras do not see race or ethnicity,’ the report said.

Carrellas reiterated the NMA’s past opposition to automated enforcement programs run by private companies hired by government agencies.

“Can drivers trust an industry with a profit motive to fairly enforce laws such as speeding, stopping for red lights and school buses? No,” he said, “The technology and its application is so disdained by motorists that so-called safety organizations, including for-profit insurance companies, have to whitewash ways to overcome its barriers.”

Source: Govtech