Red light cameras at Long Island intersections have yielded mixed results, according to a recent study, with a spike in Suffolk crashes and a dip in Nassau collisions, though the county collects twice as much camera revenue as New York City.
AAA Northeast released the study this week and said the latest data showed crashes have dropped since 2014, the last time it analyzed red light camera data from Albany, Long Island, Mount Vernon, New York City, and Yonkers.
“In general, we support red light camera programs because they do have the potential of reducing these T-bone crashes,” said Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA Northeast, a nonprofit organization with nearly six million members in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. “I would say overall things are getting better because municipalities are showing a reduction in crashes.”
The organization recommended the New York State Department of Transportation oversee local automated enforcement programs, and revenue from red light camera programs be put toward traffic safety initiatives. The group also advised municipalities to post their reports online and on time, notify the public when new cameras are to be installed, and slap penalties on municipalities that fail to follow state laws requiring reports be completed.
Since the 2014 study, Sinclair said, crashes have gone down overall in the areas covered but there were upticks in Suffolk.
A separate Suffolk-funded study released in June and covering three years ending in 2017 showed that accidents increased by 59.6 percent at the county’s 100 red-light camera intersections. The same study found that fatal crashes in Suffolk and those involving injuries decreased by 11 percent.
The latest AAA study said Suffolk showed a 9-percent increase in crashes in 2018 — from 1,258 in 2010, the year camera were installed, to 1,376 last year. AAA analysts were heartened by Suffolk’s recent attempt to perform an engineering analysis to reveal the source of the increase with the data possibly being used to “reevaluate camera placement.”
Suffolk officials did not respond to request for comment on the study.
In Nassau, crashes dropped by 26 percent — from 2,347 to 1,748 — since the county first installed cameras in 2009, according to the study. Revenue from red light cameras in Nassau has soared, the AAA study found, primarily due to the $55 public safety fee and the $45 driver responsibility fee added to fines.
In fact, Nassau, with 100 cameras, matched New York City, which operates 150, in logging more than 500,000 violations in 2016, but doubled the city’s $24 million in revenue in 2017, with $48.5 million collected.
County Executive Laura Curran said she was pleased with the program.
“My highest priority is the safety of our residents,” she said in a statement. “Nassau’s red light cameras are there to deter people from driving recklessly on our roads. The data shows that this program isn’t just effective — it’s saving lives with a consistent decrease in accidents every year and a 25.5% overall decrease in accidents since this program was implemented. In addition, for the ninth year in a row, there have been no fatalities at any intersections with red light cameras in all of Nassau County.”
But Sinclair said that the high fees are a problem. He noted that Suffolk also imposes a $30 fee on top of the fine.
“We don’t like the extra fees that Nassau and Suffolk impose,” he said. “We would like to see that revenue going to safety programs. … Some drivers are just barely making it. Throw on extra penalties of $55 and $45 and it gets onerous.”