WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Westchester County residents are going to need to exercise a little extra precaution when they approach a yellow light, as more and more municipalities install red light traffic cameras and popular intersections.
Last week, Mount Vernon became the third Westchester city – joining New Rochelle and Yonkers – to install red light security cameras at popular, densely traveled intersections in an effort to catch motorists on the wrong end of a yellow light.
A red light violation takes place when the entire vehicle crosses an intersection’s line of demarcation and after the traffic signal turns red. Technicians then review the violation images before a sworn officer in the city determines whether or not a fine or ticket should be levied.
Andrew Cuomo last year signed legislation into law permitting as many as 20 additional red light cameras in Mount Vernon and a dozen in New Rochelle.
“The law will dramatically increase the safety of our pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,” State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who sponsored the legislation, said. “Those who recklessly run red lights will no longer be tolerated. By creating awareness, people will modify their driving behavior and everyone will be safer.”
Critics of red light safety cameras have cited them as a cash grab, not a tool designed to keep cities safer. Each violation nets a motorist a $50 fine.
The red light program is scheduled to run through 2019. Officials in Mount Vernon have estimated that the program may net the city as much as $1 million.
Red light camera programs have had mixed results throughout the state, according to AAA New York Media Relations Manager Robert Sinclair Jr., who noted that most municipalities – including Yonkers, which “cherry picked data to make it seem like the program was more effective,” just months after the cameras were implemented – improperly implemented the system.
“As a concept, we are in favor of red light cameras to help prevent t-bone crashes,” he said. “But there are engineering standards that must be adhered to for the programs to function as an actual safety program, otherwise they’re just ‘gotcha’ programs that generate revenue but may not increase safety.”
In Westchester, officials in many municipalities have their hands tied due to New York state law that only permits the lights in cities that have more than 1,000,000 residents without a local ordinance that requires voter approval.
Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Terrance Raynor said that red light cameras aren’t about generating revenue for the city, but instead about promoting safer streets for motorists. Last year, officials in New Jersey announced that they were ending their red light programs in more than two dozen cities.
"Every time a driver runs a red light, the possibility increases for a severe T-bone crash to occur, causing injury or death to the red-light runner and the innocent people crossing the intersection," he noted. "Just as drivers adjust their behavior in the presence of a police officer, they will do the same with red-light safety cameras. The cameras will definitely help change driver behavior."
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