A red-light camera monitors the North Service Road of the...

A red-light camera monitors the North Service Road of the LIE at Ronkonkoma Avenue in Ronkonkoma. (Oct. 28, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

Here's yet another perspective on the use of red-light traffic cameras:

I am a firefighter and driver for over 30 years. The new red-light cameras are a problem for us. In my experience, people will not clear the lane because they fear getting a ticket in the mail. This slows our response time quite a bit and can force drivers to maneuver around the stopped traffic (if possible) and enter the oncoming lane.

That comes from Steven Parsloe, a volunteer firefighter who lives in New Hyde Park. He sent an email in response to the Jan. 1 Watchdog column, which reported that, in Nassau, such tickets can be contested only in person.

"I can tell you without a doubt these cars are not moving" out of the way if such a maneuver risks a red-light ticket, he said in an interview.

"Does this mean when someone does the right thing and 'clears the lane' they will have to take time off from work or [from] their day to show they did the right thing?" he asked.

That depends.

First, let's be clear about what state law requires: Drivers must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles equipped with a red light and siren or other audible signal.

And if a ticket shows up in the aftermath?

In Nassau, such a ticket can be contested only in person.

In Suffolk, a ticket recipient can call a toll-free number to request a review.

Nassau wants to make it clear to drivers that tickets are rarely issued in such situations. And the county's traffic safety educator Christopher Mistron said drivers should yield to emergency vehicles without worrying about getting a ticket.

Just how many such citations are issued isn't available because, Mistron said, the county doesn't have a separate category for them.

But they are rare, he said, because employees who review red-light camera videos see a section of footage that is usually sufficient to convey the context, typically 12 seconds. In addition to situations involving emergency vehicles, drivers in funeral processions also would not receive a citation, Mistron said.

"Remember, the review process is done by video, done by human eyes," he said. "So they are picking up those people who pass red lights because of emergency vehicles behind them . . . We purposely look to see the whole event."

A ticket recipient who wants to contest it would schedule an appearance at the Traffic and Parking Violations bureau after signing and mailing in the coupon on the ticket, according to the county's website.

But in Suffolk, the first step would be to call 866-637-0008.

"If someone receives a red light citation that they believe they should not have received due to emergency vehicles or law enforcement direction, they should contact the Red Light Safety Program's toll free number and ask for the citation to be reviewed," said county spokesman Jon Schneider. If a review confirms the emergency context, he said, the ticket can be voided.

But if it doesn't, a hearing in District Court in Central Islip would be scheduled, Schneider said.

Such tickets wind up getting issued, he said, because "sometimes the video clips and pictures don't show the emergency vehicle or officer, so there is no way to know there was an extenuating circumstance."


A stretch of pavement in Port Washington reminds us that roadways can resemble skating rinks even in a winter with practically no snow. Port Washington resident Alan Goldberg, whose daily commute takes him along West Shore Road, drew our attention to the stretch just north of Fairway Drive, where at least one southbound lane is routinely covered with water. At this time of year, that typically means ice.

Your daily drive may improve, Mr. Goldberg, though probably not in time for this winter.

Nassau County says the source of the problem is drainage from the adjacent hill -- a situation that's due to be addressed this year.

An "abundance of groundwater" drains from the top of the hill and collects on the roadway on its way to Hempstead Harbor, according to Mike Martino, spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works.

A major road resurfacing project will include "mitigation of the flow of groundwater and [will] eliminate this issue permanently," he said. County Executive Edward Mangano has directed that the project be completed this year, Martino said.

The county sands and salts the roadway "on a steady basis," he said, to address the wintry driving conditions caused by the groundwater draining onto the pavement.

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