Before 1977 it was illegal to turn right at a red light in New York. The law changed to bring the state into line with a federal law passed in two years earlier to improve the nation’s energy efficiency by reducing the amount if time motorists spent idling at red lights when no cars were approaching.
Shortly after the early law changed, Newsday began running stories, editorials and letters in which police officers, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians complained that motorists too often performed the maneuver incorrectly, failing to come to a complete stop to look before they turn.
Motorist were punatively reminded of their errant ways in when Nassau County instituted its red-light camera program in 2009. Even since, drivers getting such tickets have been furious and the local lawmakers who approved the cameras have been scrambling.
The tickets brought in a record $48.5 million in revenue in 2016. The anger, made worse because most driver don’t realize they’ve violated the law until a summons arrives in the mail.Each violation costs $150 with fees.
So the Nassau legislature unanimously passed a law in December, signed by County Executive Laura Curran demanding that at every one of the 96 intersections where the county has a red-light cameras, a sign be put up saying “Stop Here On Red” with an arrow to indicate where drivers must pause. Nearly all such intersections already have a sign announcing there is a red-light camera there. Now Republicans in the legislature are upset at Curran because the county has not met the agreed March 1 deadline to install all the signs.
Drivers need to realize a full stop, the brake light must come on, before making a right on red. The county needs to hurry up and get the signs up. But if signs are needed to remind drivers how to comply with the established motor vehicle law, there won’t be space on a roadways for all of them. — The editorial board