O’Scanlon: “No one should be fooled” by school bus camera bill

New Jersey motorists need to be warned that Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., one of the two now-infamous red light camera companies blessedly sent packing with the end of the failed pilot program in December, is trying to bring automated enforcement back to the state. This is company U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall was referring to when she said this at the bribery sentencing of former Redflex CEO Karen Finely: ‘… But when we have a corporation that is in the community making millions of dollars on a product that abuses the people, there is no sense of corporate social responsibility there. … That impact cannot be underestimated.’ Nice.

This time they are hiding behind our children’s so-called ‘safety’ in the form of cameras on school buses. No one should be fooled. We proved red light cameras were a scam hiding behind false safety claims, and this bill is more of the same.

The first fallacy is that this bill is at all needed. School bus cameras are already legal, and almost every bus sold today has cameras or is set to accommodate them. This bill simply permits these corrupt companies to automate enforcement, which is completely unnecessary. Any time you interject a private company with a pure money-making objective into the enforcement mix, it is a bad idea.

These companies are invoking concern for kids, implying that if you oppose the cameras you don’t care about the safety of school children. It’s a pretty shrewd public relations move. People who do make a conscious decision to pass stopped school buses with lights flashing should be punished along with folks who choose to run red lights. There aren’t many of those drivers. Just like red light cameras, automated school bus cameras will be set up to take advantage of non-hazardous technical violations so enough tickets are written to pay for the cameras. Since there aren’t enough violators they will jack up fines to the point of being ridiculous. The overwhelming number of tickets issued would be to people behaving reasonably, but making minor technical violations like stopping 24 feet from a bus rather than the 25 feet required by law.

In the case of a car approaching a school bus with blinking red lights on the opposite side of a divided highway, the law requires the driver to slow to 10 miles per hour to pass. I would guess 99 out of 100 people don’t know the law. Under the bill, we’re all candidates for tickets. Most of us will slow down and proceed with caution, perhaps passing at only 11 to 15 mph. The camera company is counting on thousands of us making such technical violations at $250 to $500 each.

I am working to educate legislators, editorial boards and the public so we don’t again fall for the false claims of automated enforcement firms who have been caught blatantly lying about their products and bribing officials throughout the country. Redflex Traffic Systems is leading the lobbying charge to permit the scheme. Opening our wallets to automated enforcement companies that have proven they will take every opportunity to lie and steal from us is not the answer.

It is rare for children to be struck by cars illegally passing school buses. One is too many, but cameras on school buses are already legal and can be used to provide video evidence to support a bus driver’s contention that an infraction occurred and have local police issue a summons. The current proposal would give for-profit companies the right to operate these systems and an incentive to generate as many tickets as possible, justified or not.

We must remain vigilant so we don’t again permit these corrupt companies unfettered access to our wallets. Using concern for our children’s safety to manipulate us is shameful, but not unexpected. Redflex is the same firm involved in a bribery scandal that, according to at least one former top executive, already touches New Jersey. We don’t want to be in bed with these scoundrels ever again. Now is the time to stop them once and for all.