In a Rare Moment, a Revenue Stream is Rejected on Planet Jersey


A New Jersey legislator makes the profound discovery that government is concerned about revenue and not safety; pass the smelling salts!


As reported in the Newark Star Ledger recently, New Jersey lawmakers want an end to red-light cameras. For those who do not know about such latest revenue-enhancement devices, they are cameras at intersections that take pictures of the license plates of cars that ostensibly disobey red lights, resulting in tickets being mailed to the auto owners.

Of course, municipalities argue that it is for safety but cynics (read: Planet Jersey Realists), like myself, think that there could be less noble reasons afoot; namely, cash inflow.

State Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Warren) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) called for disbanding the devices, which they say have not made intersections safer, amongst other things. Doherty called for the cameras to be banned outright, saying the program is less about safety and more about filling town coffers from fines at the intersections. “Government should not use citizens as cash cows,” he thundered. Clearly Mr. Doherty is Planet Jersey’s version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, circa 2012, or he is very good at feigning ignorance.

Above: A robot disguised as a policeman in the movie “The Terminator”

Under national standards, yellow lights are expected to stay lit one second for every 10 mph — or 3.5 seconds in the case of an intersection where the speed limit is 35 mph. I wish anyone luck who can stop their car in 3 1/2 seconds while driving 35 miles per hour, while not leaving half their tire on the road and inviting a roadside conversation with one of New Jersey’s Finest.


The harsh truth of the matter is that my beloved Planet Jersey has a civic model which is to tax, ticket and fee anything that moves. And this has become more pronounced given the fiscal canyon that our politicians have led us into. For anyone who thinks that a traffic ticket is being inflicted upon them, in most cases, in the name of public safety and not to support that revenue-officers compensation (including a nice retirement out of this state), I’ve got some Greek bonds I will sell you at a premium.

Red-light cameras are a somewhat difficult subject as, in one sense, they take the subjectivity out of the transaction (see: PBA shields on windshields atop inspection stickers). On the other hand, they take away the discretion that a policeman may properly use in cases where the matter is a close call, especially given weather conditions, traffic volume or speed given the time of day (rush hour is far different from any other time of day).

It would seem that, at least for now, red-light cameras are not appropriate until they are programmed to take in all of the facts and circumstances that reality offers drivers on the roads. And as such standard could be the equivalent of the search for artificial intelligence, red-light cameras will perhaps never see their day. Oh well, humans may not become obsolete after all.

In the meantime, municipalities could best console themselves with such revenue loss by cleaning up their fiscal houses, to wit, cut costs.

-I.M. Windee

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