Red light cameras catching accidents on tape

June 7, 2010 3:24:24 PM PDT
Red light cameras on Long Island are catching a lot more than cars just running lights.

It happens in the blink of an eye. Cameras roll as red-light runners cause crash after crash. Some of them minor, but others are much more serious.

From the vantage point of dozens of surveillance cameras, perched above Nassau county intersections, you can see people's driving skills or lack thereof.

In one clip, a car blows through a red light and slams into another red light runner, who's attempting a left turn from the middle lane. Meanwhile, another car is making an illegal right on red.

In just one shot, there were three different violations

Chris Mistron has seen it all. He's in charge of traffic management for Nassau County, which recently installed high-tech cameras at more than 70 busy intersections to catch scofflaws in the act.

We're looking at people who are outright passing lights that were red, not just changing but were red for several seconds," he said.

In the nine months since the first camera went online, the county logged well over 300,000 violations, sending out 180,000, $50 tickets. And while it's brought in over $6 dollars in revenue, Mistron insists the idea is to make people aware so they drive more safely.

The cameras are having an effect in Baldwin at Milburn and Merrick. When the cams first went active they recorded an average of 12 violations a day. Since then the number has plummeted to only one.

Still the cameras can't prevent tragedy, like when cops say a tractor trailer blew through a red light in Bethpage, killing 11-year-old Joanna Ryan, and her mom, Barbara.

And just last week, Mistron watched a man die when he ran a red light, and flipped his car.

"All that bothered me for the rest of that night and for the couple of days was? If he had just stopped for that red light," he adds.

So are the cameras solving the problem? Reliable statistics won't be available for several more months.

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