New York City is facing a new class action lawsuit alleging that the city's red light cameras were setup to generate revenue rather than improve driver safety.
First installed in the city in 1998, New York touted the red light cameras as a way to reduce vehicle crashes. However, the lawsuit, filed by three NYC motorists, claims that the cameras are little more than a money grab for the city.
“Red light cameras are to prevent the very dangerous, so called ‘T-bone’ crashes, where you have the front of vehicle running into the side of another. We are in favor, in concept, of the red light cameras, but they have to be done to certain engineering criteria,” AAA New York spokesperson Robert Sinclair told CBS 2.
Per federal law, traffic lights must allow enough time between yellow and red lights to let drivers pass safely through the intersection – typically 3-seconds for a 30mph intersection. However, engineers from AAA New York discovered that some the city's intersections equipped with red camera lights had yellow lights that changed about a half-second too fast.
“If you’re timing them too short, then it just becomes a revenue enhancement tool and it erodes support for the program,” Sinclair said.
Over the last five years the city's 150 red light cameras have generated $235 million from driver citations. In 2010 alone, the red light cameras handed out 1 million tickets to NYC drivers.
“The city in this case, and many other municipalities, have a great incentive to shorten the duration of the yellow lights,” plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph Santoli said. “These tickets and violations and fines are more like a tax on the broad populace rather than targeting and correcting the behavior of bad drivers.”
The Department of Transportation contends that “there has been no substantiation that any red-light cameras in this report were improperly timed or led to any violation being issued incorrectly.”
The suit isn't seeking any kind of monetary compensation but rather an injunction that would force the city to take down all of its red light cameras.