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Earlier this month, the county legislature unanimously approved a request to the state to allow for the installation of red light cameras at up to 50 Nassau intersections.

Days later both the state Senate and Assembly followed suit.

These cameras will effectively catch red light runners in the act, snap a picture of their vehicle's license plate and send them a ticket via mail. These cameras turn on only when a motorist runs a red light.

The legislation, which still needs Governor David Paterson's signature, will enable Nassau to opt into the five-year pilot program.

As of press time, Governor David Paterson was expected to sign the bill; he included the cameras in his proposed budget for 2009-10.

The legislation, which has been in effect in New York City for years, makes way for the county to drum up much-needed revenue and reduce vehicular accidents at some of the most dangerous intersections in Nassau.

According to Senator Craig Johnson, who sponsored the Senate bill, a 2007 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that almost 900 people were killed and an estimated 153,000 injured nationwide as a result of people running red lights. The senator further notes that one person dies from every 100 red light related accidents.

"These red light cameras will help improve the safety of our roadways and protect every Nassau resident," Senator Johnson said. "This measure has long been a priority for County Executive Tom Suozzi and the Nassau County Legislature."

As part of the program, county officials must issue an annual report to state leaders detailing the effectiveness of this technology. Further, the legislation protects vehicle owners if their vehicle was reported stolen and also protects vehicle owners from traffic signal malfunctions.

Residents living throughout the Hempstead Turnpike corridor brought the red light cameras idea to Assemblyman Tom Alfano's attention nearly four years ago.

"Week after week in local papers we'd read about accident after accident that would occur on the Turnpike because people were speeding, running a red light and not following the basic rules of the road," Assemblyman Alfano, who, along with Assemblyman Chuck Lavine and Senator Chuck Fuschillo, has sponsored the bill for years, he said.

"I strongly believe the red light cameras are a big step forward in having accountability for drivers. It's another tool to make sure that they adhere to the rules of the road. There have been too many tragedies on Hempstead Turnpike because of excessive speed, drivers ignoring red lights and sheer carelessness ... Drivers beware, soon enough if you run the light, the camera will catch you!"

Back in February, County Executive Tom Suozzi painted a grim financial picture for Nassau. He warned that if $30 million in new, state-generated revenue did not happen, a home energy fuel sales tax would be implemented come July 1 and county funding for social service agencies, including Nassau's numerous youth programs, would be cut by $12 million. Nassau lawmakers approved the emergency measure to help offset the service cuts.


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