O’Scanlon: red light cameras were “a disaster” for New Jersey’s finances

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

New Jersey’s red lights cameras stop issuing tickets back around Christmas, Save Jerseyans, but since there is big money to be made with issuing phony tickets, the pro-camera lobby won’t quit until they’re turned back on.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) led the charge to switch the lights off. To keep them that way, he released cost/benefit calculations of the hated and notorious pilot program on Monday along with his detailed methodology.

“The NJ RLC study applies a monetary value to accidents based on the degree of severity,” O’Scanlon explained. “A fender bender costs $7,400, a possible injury costs $44,900, an ‘evident injury’ costs $79,000, a disabling injury costs $216,000 and a death – although there weren’t any deaths at qualified study intersections either before or during the assessment period – would cost $4,008,900. The numbers employed coming from straight from the Highway Safety Improvement Program Manual, from there it is easy to do the math.”

red light camera“The easy and most honest answer is that there were no savings – since we have demonstrated that cameras don’t improve safety. So there are only costs. Those costs amount to around $40 million per year,” the Monmouth legislator continued. “That’s the total fines paid by NJ motorists – with normally half the proceeds going to the municipality, with the other half going to the camera operators. That’s almost too easy, so we decided to see if there would be net savings using the camera company/town fabricated savings numbers. They try to suggest that there are savings even though we have shown that any reductions line up with natural accident rate trends and fluctuations or can be attributed to factors other than the cameras. Stunningly, even using the tortured numbers – the cameras are a disaster from a cost/benefit perspective.”

Remember: even though you and I know the red light camera program was all about the Benjamins for a narrow set of individual/entities, and we’re talking millions for Newark alone, the purported purpose of these infernal contraptions were (1) safety and (2) savings spread over the whole state.


“Using the most statistically significant data set from New Jersey’s red light camera reports, 22 intersections with over 3 years of data, one finds that this data set averages 12,200 citations per month,” O’Scanlon explained. “This translates to 146,400 tickets per year costing motorists at least $12,444,000. The supposed ‘savings’ at those intersections is $390,000. That leaves a net cost to motorists of over $12,000,000! Looked at another way, the program takes almost $32 in fines for every $1 saved. By any objective standard, the red light camera experiment was a disaster.”

But at least we’re saving lives, right? Not really. A mountain of data suggests that red light cameras INCREASE accidents at intersections.

And it gets even better. I said the cameras were not issuing tickets but they’re still recording alleged violations:

According to data provided by the City of Newark Department of Engineering Division of Traffic and Signals, 47,445 violations were detected from February 16, 2015 to March 17, 2015 compared to just 21,965 violations during the same time period last year – an increase of 25,000 violations during a one month time period.”

That’s a 25,480 uptick or 116% increase spread over several (not dozens or hundreds) of Brick City intersections. Let’s assume there were zero false positives; plenty of contradictory data suggests no clear correlation. For example, one NJDOT study of 24 New Jersey intersections found a 20% jump in rear-end collisions over the year immediately preceding the installation of red light cameras!



Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8495 Articles
MATT ROONEY is SaveJersey.com's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.


  1. The program was a five year study that was going to wrap up anyway. I emphasize 5 year. I find it dishonest to cake slice segments, say 1 yr or even 3 yrs out of it). The locations of the cameras were not random. These were established problem areas for accidents eg. one side of Bell Curve. Comparing them to any natural decline is shading.

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