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Red-Light Cameras for Safety, Not Cash

Thu, 06/13/2024 - 12:09


New York legislators were unable to get to a bill that would have kept Suffolk County's stop-light camera program going past Dec. 1. Without the money coming from ticket violation fines, the county will have to make up for about $8 million in lost revenue next year. As of yet, there is no plan for where the money could come from. 

Outgoing State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. sponsored a bill that would have extended the red-light cameras for five years. However, as Newsday first reported, no one proposed a parallel measure in the State Senate. Who was to blame for the omission depended on where one stood. Albany lawmakers said it was the county's fault. The county blamed the senators. Politics likely played a part; the Democratic Senate majority could well have been happy to stick it to the Republican-dominated Suffolk Legislature and County Executive Ed Romaine, a G.O.P. stalwart. 

While a loss of $8 million out of an anticipated $4 billion Suffolk budget for 2025 might seem trifling, for the perennially strapped county, it would matter. Mr. Thiele told Newsday that there was a chance that the stop-light camera authorization could be included in an omnibus bill before it was set to expire.

More than political tomfoolery, there is an issue of safety. According to an insurance group's study, fatal accidents at intersections dropped by almost 25 percent in cities where the cameras' use was widespread. In particular, pedestrians and motorcycle riders are at risk when a vehicle driver fails to heed a red light. But there is a catch: Cameras put in places for revenue-grabbing purposes can defeat their positive effects. Hiding or disguising the cameras, as many local governments do to assure greater return on investment is counter to their value in limiting the harm to people and property.

If Suffolk's program is to be revived, the priority should be reducing risk, not maintaining an income stream.

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