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O’Scanlon: Stunning Cost/Benefit Analysis Obliterates Red Light Camera Credibility

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Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) today released the first true cost/benefit calculations of the NJ red light camera pilot program.  The numbers are striking, and devastating to the camera program.

“The best way to assess the success of any program – government or private – is to actually assess the value of the program versus the cost.  If a program costs you more than the value it returns, then it is a bad investment – and should be discontinued.  This is particularly applicable to automated enforcement programs like red light cameras.  If the total value of “accident cost savings” is less than the amount of fines charged, then the deal stinks for NJ drivers.  You can’t argue with these numbers because they come directly from the state study” said O’Scanlon.

O’Scanlon outlined that the methodology of the NJ red light camera study lends itself particularly well to a cost benefit analysis. “The NJ RLC study applies a monetary value to accidents based on the degree of severity. A fender bender costs $7,400, a possible injury costs $44,900, an ‘evident injury’ costs $79,000, a disabling injury costs $216,000 and a death – although there weren’t any deaths at qualified study intersections either before or during the assessment period – would cost $4,008,900. The numbers employed coming from straight from the Highway Safety Improvement Program Manual, from there it is easy to do the math” said O’Scanlon.

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“The easy and most honest answer is that there were no savings – since we have demonstrated that cameras don’t improve safety.  So there are only costs.  Those costs amount to around $40 million per year.  That’s the total fines paid by NJ motorists – with normally half the proceeds going to the municipality, with the other half going to the camera operators. That’s almost too easy, so we decided to see if there would be net savings using the camera company/town fabricated savings numbers. They try to suggest that there are savings even though we have shown that any reductions line up with natural accident rate trends and fluctuations or can be attributed to factors other than the cameras.  Stunningly, even using the tortured numbers – the cameras are a disaster from a cost/benefit perspective.

Using the most statistically significant data set from New Jersey’s red light camera reports, 22 intersections with over 3 years of data, one finds that this data set averages 12,200 citations per month. This translates to 146,400 tickets per year costing motorists at least $12,444,000.  The supposed “savings” at those intersections is $390,000.  That leaves a net cost to motorists of over $12,000,000!  Looked at another way, the program takes almost $32 in fines for every $1 saved. By any objective standard, the red light camera experiment was a disaster. 

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