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New Jersey's red-light camera intersections see rise in car accidents

According to the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, "The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people -- and especially of government -- always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended."

Unintended consequences are what we apparently have in New Jersey after the state installed red-light cameras at intersections with the hope that the devices would lower the number of car accidents. Instead, a new state Department of Transportation study shows that collisions are on the rise at those intersections.

Red-light cameras serve as traffic law enforcement devices that take digital photos of vehicles that enter an intersection illegally after a red light. The owners of the offending vehicles are then identified and mailed citations.

The DOT analyzed data from two dozen red-light intersections and found that more accidents are happening at those intersections -- especially rear-end collisions -- and that the crashes cost vehicle owners more than in the past.

Rear-end collisions at intersections equipped with the automated cameras are up 20 percent, DOT figures show. The year before the lights were installed, there were 286 such accidents at those intersections; in the year after installation, there were 343.

The "crash severity cost" (medical care, vehicle and property damage, emergency response expenses) also went up after camera installation, rising nearly $1.2 million.

"If you believe the hype of these cameras, accidents should be down across the board," one state assemblyman said. "But it's just not true."

Two positive statistics to be gleaned from the analysis: there was a 50 percent drop in the number of tickets issued at the intersections, plus severe right-angle crashes dropped 15 percent as well.

DOT plans to continue its five-year pilot program with the cameras.

Rear-end collisions can sometimes leave drivers and passengers with neck, head, spine and other injuries requiring costly medical care. An experienced personal injury attorney can help car accident injury victims recover those costs, plus lost wages and other damages.

Source:, "Accident rate rises at intersections with red-light cameras, N.J. study shows," Nov. 27, 2012

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