A parade of opponents of Suffolk’s red light camera program, which brings in $31 million in revenue annually, backed a Republican bill Wednesday to suspend its use until the county does a study to evaluate its impact on public safety.
Fifteen speakers backed Legis. Kevin McCaffrey’s proposal to shut down the program as of Jan. 1 and give the county 120 days to review the program’s risks, claiming that the purported safety program is really aimed only at raising revenues and has increased the number of rear-end collisions.
“It’s a money grab and I don’t want to be under surveillance,” said Ron Bracco, backer of the bill from Melville. “I don’t want Big Brother watching every move we make.”
Some critics claim the county has shortened the timing of yellow lights, increasing the danger. Others claimed that outside contractors pick intersections based on potential for revenue, not safety, and that the county failed to have engineers sign off timing of lights, charges the county denies.
“I encourage you to vote for suspension,” said Arthur Petriello, another speaker. “I’m one of thousands who has slammed on their brakes at the shortened yellow lights.”
Alec Slartky, policy director for AAA Northeast, said the program “merits more thorough study,” but opposed suspending it, noting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found cities that turn off cameras have 30 percent more fatal crashes involving running red lights per capita than if cameras remained.
McCaffrey said he believes the public “made a pretty good argument” to move forward and public works officials could avoid a suspension if the study were completed before year’s end. “We asked them to look at the program but they failed to do it, so we’re holding their feet to the fire,” he said.
McCaffrey’s bill surfaced after the county’s most recent red-light camera report released in July found an overall 5 percent decrease in injury accidents compared with the year before they were installed. But injury accidents increased at 46 of 100 intersections. Right-angle accidents decreased 35 percent overall, while rear-end collisions rose by 30 percent.