MIDDLETOWN MULLING TRAFFIC CAMS

mtown-red-lightThe town intends to install three to five red light cameras. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Drivers in Middletown might start thinking twice before speeding up to catch the yellow light before it goes red.

After receiving proposals from several vendors, the township is considering installing traffic light cameras to nab drivers running red lights.

The cameras could be installed by the end of this year, Administrator Anthony Mercantante said. The question is where?

The town received proposals for cameras – which capture an image of a car and its license plate if it runs a red light – a few years ago, he said. But officials were skeptical that pitch amounted to little more than a way for the town to get money by writing tickets.

Since then, traffic and safety data have been gathered to support installation, Mercantante said.

While the images would be reviewed by the police department to issue tickets ($85) for running the light, Mercantante said the cameras also have the potential to enhance safety at intersections, because drivers will be aware that if they go through the red, they’ll be caught on camera.

“There’s tremendous data that shows very, very dramatic reductions in motor vehicle accidents at intersections” with cameras, he said. “The improved safety factor is significant. That’s really what we’re looking for.”

Mercantante said the town will likely install three to five of the cameras, which are affixed to traffic lights and capture two still images, as well as video of the intersection. On the road leading to the light would be a sign that warns drivers of a camera ahead.

Town officials will submit a list of potential camera locations to the state Department of Transportation, which has the final say on whether the cameras can be installed, and where.

Besides the safety aspect, Mercantante said the cameras will likely cut down on contested traffic tickets, because the images will be available online for people to see clearly that they ran the light. That will in turn cut down on court and administration costs, he said.

Committeeman Gerry Scharfenberger raised concerns over potential faults to the system. If a car slightly rolls over the boundary that triggers the camera to snap a pic, he worried that a driver would unduly be ticketed. That won’t be the case, Mercantante said, because police will, like a traffic stop, have discretion on the issuance of a ticket.

Scharfenberger also worried that if a driver made a sudden stop at a light to avoid running a red, it could cause an accident with vehicles behind it.

“Yes, there are some rear-end accidents,” Mercantante replied. “But it’s a lot better than getting t-boned at an intersection.”

Mercantante said the town will continue to meet with contractors he said would install the cameras for free, and take a percentage of ticket revenues. The state and town would split the remaining revenues, he said.

If the township committee approves the installation of the cameras, they could be functional by the end of the year, he said.

Middletown is among a handful of Monmouth County towns exploring the option to install the cameras. Neptune and Ocean have both expressed interest in the last couple months. Last year, Brick Township in Ocean County was one of a dozen municipalities to have the cameras put in as part of a DOT pilot program.