As NJ red light-camera program fades, lawmaker seeks green light for smart cars

Legislators in New Jersey appear poised to sweep the state’s red light-camera program into history’s dustbin, but the man who led the effort already has his eyes on the next generation of safety tech.

The camera program was a pilot, set to sunset in December. Without a bill to renew it, the program will die, and the companies that operate the cameras will have to pack up their gear and take it home.

The program had earned praise from some local officials, who lobbied to keep it alive, saying it deterred traffic violations, increased safety and raised revenue.

But Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, who made eliminating the cameras his personal mission, says they represent nothing but a money grab.

“Unfortunately, we have turned our police, in many areas of New Jersey and many areas of the nation, into pseudo tax collectors,” he said. “Police are pressured regularly to increase the number of tickets they write. That should not ever be the message from elected officials to police officers.”

O’Scanlon believes the future of traffic safety lies in smart cars, not cameras.

“Cars today can drive all day long at 100 mph,” he said. “If you have areas with driverless cars, they could facilitate those speeds. You can also have vehicle-to-vehicle communications, cars communicating with each other. That’s the next thing that will increase safety at intersections.”

O’Scanlon says he’s working on legislation that would pave the way for these sorts of smart cars. As for the cameras, there’s no indication that the legislators will try to save them; even if they did, Gov. Chris Christie has said he’d probably veto the bill.

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