By JOHN T. WARD
Or, to be more precise, the 13th-District Assembly member from Little Silver is on the verge of killing automated red-light ticketing of motorists, a system for which he holds back almost nothing in the way of condemnation.
“Sanctioned theft” he calls the system. “Robbery.” “Injustice.” And no, he’s never gotten one of the tickets, he tells redbankgreen.
“The last thing government should be doing is sanctioning theft from our constituents,” O’Scanlon said in his legislative office in Red Bank Monday, three days after the state Department of Transportation yielded to his efforts and pulled the plug on a statewide pilot program for the cameras. “And that’s what automated enforcement at every level is: speed cameras, red-light cameras… You have to set up the system to target reasonably behaving people in order for the system to make money.”
Without artificially short yellow-light times – which he claims bear no relationship to either good traffic engineering or how people actually behave – neither the companies that make the systems nor the municipalities that collect a portion of the ticket revenue get the return they need to justify the installations, O’Scanlon claims.
No towns in Monmouth County installed the cameras under the DOT’s five-year trial, which ends December 16. Fair Haven and Middletown considered whether to install red-light cameras, but the efforts ran out of gas. Shrewsbury also considered using one at Broad Street (Route 35) and Sycamore Avenue, but O’Scanlon says he talked his neighbors off the idea.
One town in Ocean County, Brick Township, did install the system, by Mayor John Ducey followed up on a campaign promise and killed it when he was elected, O’Scanlon said.
O’Scanlon, a former Little Silver council member who was elected to the Assembly in 2007, said he got into policy issues in his early 20s, largely in part because of his interest in seeing the speed limit on controlled-access highways bumped up from 55 MPH.
Taking his case to incumbent Democrats, including the late Congressman Jim Howard and Senator Frank Lautenberg, he found them entrenched in their views, unwilling to consider scientific data. That turned him into a Republican, he said.
“One of the areas where we most come into contact with government is behind the wheel of a car,” said O’Scanlon, who can often be seen tooling around the Green in an electric-blue BMW sedan. And the government reflexively treats motorists, he says, “like homicidal maniacs.”
Study after study, he said. showed that red-light cameras did nothing to improve road safety.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone, anywhere, causing an accident by clipping a yellow light,” he said. And the camera companies “rig the system” so motorists get caught, and then have few practical options by which they can ight the tickets.
“You guilty until proven innocent,” he said.
After an unrelenting campaign of criticism of the program leading to its shutdown, O’Scanlon isn’t ready to declare victory yet, he said. The camera companies have deep pockets, and will leave the systems in place, gathering data he said they’ll use to claim that ending the program made driving less safe. It’s a standard industry tactic, he said.
“They’ve done it before,” he said. “We shouldn’t fall for it.”