Rockland Co. to discipline drivers running red lights

Posted: Updated:

The Rockland County executive has proposed installing cameras at busy intersections in order to catch drivers running red lights.

County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef?s proposal has an additional motive besides driver safety. Under the program, drivers caught running red lights would face $50 tickets?if the tickets go unchallenged, the money will go toward filling a $1.3 million hole in the county budget for 2009.

In order to fill the hole, 26,000 tickets would have to be issued, and all of the tickets would have to go unchallenged. Once a driver files a challenge, any resulting fines go to the village or town court that hears the case. However, it may be difficult to challenge the ticket since the cameras will take a snapshot of the car as it drives through the red light?a snapshot that will be mailed to the driver along with the ticket.

Sean Matthews, Vanderhoef?s chief of staff, says between 70 and 80 percent of people who receive tickets pay them.

Matthews says no county study has been done to determine if running red lights is an issue, but according to Vanderhoef, more people are running red lights today than in the past. He noticed the increase while out driving.

Vanderhoef faces a fight over the installation of cameras because state law allows communities to put them in place only if they have more than one million residents. Vanderhoef will need ?home-rule? permission from the state Legislature and local law from the county Legislature in order to get the cameras installed. According to Matthews, state Senate and Assembly representatives have already been contacted.

Vanderhoef?s spokeswoman, C.J. Miller, says more than 30 intersections could qualify for the cameras.

However, the accounting firm that reviewed Vanderhoef?s 2009 budget recommends removing the $1.3 million in red-light ticket money in case the home-rule legislation doesn?t materialize. A similar situation occurred last year when Vanderhoef included $900,000 in red-light ticket money in his 2008 budget. The money did not materialize because home-rule legislation was not passed.

If passed, cameras would initially be installed at four locations: Airmont Road and Route 59 in Airmont, Orangeburg Road and Lester Drive in Orangeburg, New Hempstead and Little Tor roads in New City, and South Little Tor Road and Burda Lane in New City. The intersections were chosen because they tend to be busier than others in the county, according to the county Highway Department.

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