Hoboken: Rely on cops, not cameras

Hoboken: Rely on cops, not cameras

Friday, November 16, 2007 Jersey Journal Editorial

In Hoboken, motor vehicles are evil. They clog streets, take away parking from local residents, and are inherently dangerous to pedestrians. The Mile Square City is a dense urban community that would like to rely on mass transit and other less stressful modes of transport - light rail, PATH, buses, taxis, bicycles and shoe leather.

The biggest concern among pedestrians is the danger they face from motorists who run stop signs and traffic lights. Hoboken officials said they will install traffic cameras to capture dangerous drivers. Two cameras were purchased in July and installed at a cost of $74,541.

Those traffic cams are located at stop signs at "high-volume intersections" as a pilot program, and will provide an image of the driver and the vehicle's license plate. Future cameras are expected to be installed at traffic lights.

In the latter half of the last century, Hudson County politicians quickly put up traffic lights in response to community demands. Savvy drivers would go to court and prove that the traffic light they may have run was never approved by the state Department of Transportation. It was estimated that in some municipalities, more than half of the traffic lights were illegal.

Keeping with tradition, the Hoboken City Council voted unanimously to approve the traffic cams last week. On Tuesday, the state Attorney General's Office said that photographic equipment cannot be used to issue traffic violations. A state law that was approved in 1992 to prohibit "speeding" cameras also covers images used to catch other traffic violations, according to state officials.

While there is a bill making its way through the state Legislature to allow traffic cameras, until it is signed into law, it is illegal to use the cameras for ticketing, according to the state. Legislators doubt the measure will be approved this year.

Hoboken officials are expected to test the law. "Our lawyers have looked at this and in their view, they are not the same," Hoboken Mayor David Roberts said.

Unfortunately, a study done in Washington, D.C., according to a 2005 Washington Post article, had data supporting an increase in motor vehicle accidents at traffic cam intersections. The report sparked conflicting reasons and noted that while there were more many more accidents, there were fewer fatalities.

While Hoboken struggles with the legalities, a novel temporary - or perhaps permanent - solution would be to have police officers issue summons for running lights and stop signs at the more dangerous intersections.

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