New Jersey is reaching the end of a five year pilot program that uses cameras to enforce red light infractions and, according to the Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll, state residents do not agree on what should happen next. Most say that increased revenues rather than improved road safety are the primary reasons towns want to use the devices.
New Jersey is divided on the idea of using cameras to issue tickets to people who drive through red lights. Overall, 44% approve of the concept versus 38% who disapprove of this type of enforcement. Another 18% have no opinion. New Jersey drivers who have received a red light ticket are opposed to the program by a 51% disapprove to 42% approve margin. Other residents who have seen these cameras in their travels are divided at 42% approve to 40% disapprove. Only those who have never noticed a red light camera in the state register majority support at 52% approve to 26% disapprove.
The poll also found there is no clear public consensus on what should happen now that the pilot program is about to expire. About 4-in-10 (39%) New Jerseyans say the program should be shut down entirely, 32% say it should be expanded to all towns in the state, and 26% say it should be continued as a limited pilot program.
“A plurality of New Jerseyans want the program to end while a slight majority want it to continue in some form. One issue is whether those who want to expand the program feel it is fair to continue to limit it to certain towns,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Public opinion on red light cameras may be influenced by perceptions of local officials’ motives for installing these cameras aside from their potential safety benefits.”
When asked about the main reason why towns install red light cameras, most (60%) New Jerseyans say that local governments are more concerned with raising money for their coffers. Only 27% say that local officials are primarily concerned with improving road safety. There are no significant partisan or regional differences in this opinion.
Most (74%) New Jerseyans have come across a red light camera while traveling around the state and about 1-in-7 report that they have received a summons for a red light infraction. This includes 10% who received a ticket while driving their own car and 4% who said the summons they received was actually caused by another driver who was using their car. Another 1% report that they caused the infraction while driving another person’s car and that person ended up receiving the ticket. Most residents (59%) say it is unfair that red light camera tickets are automatically issued to the car owner regardless of who was driving, while 36% feel this is a fair practice.
Among those who have received a red light camera ticket, 4-in-10 (42%) report that they have become safer drivers because of it while 57% say it hasn’t changed their driving behavior. Among those who have seen the red light cameras but never received a ticket, 24% say they have become safer drivers because of the cameras compared to 76% who say it has not affected their driving habits.
Overall, 44% of Garden State residents report that they have heard a lot about the use of red light cameras to ticket people who drive through red lights, 43% have heard a little, and only 14% have heard nothing at all about this program.
The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 802 New Jersey adults from September 17 to 21, 2014. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).