Red light runners beware.

Governor David Paterson signed the red light cameras bill into law this week. Up to 50 cameras will now be installed at intersections in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

These cameras are aimed at reducing the number of vehicular accidents at known dangerous intersections across the county. According to a 2007 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 900 people were killed and an estimated 153,000 injured nationwide as a result of people running red lights. Additionally, one person dies from every 100 red light-related accidents.

In April, the county legislature unanimously approved a request to the state to allow for the cameras' installation. Days later both the state Senate and Assembly followed suit.

Legislators also approved the emergency measure to ward off $12 million worth of service cuts. Essentially, the revenue from ticketing red light runners could help the county get out of its financial hole.

Catching motorists in the act and snapping a picture of their vehicle's license plate, these cameras turn on only when a motorist runs a red light. Violators would then receive a fine of up to $50 in the mail.

New York City was once the only municipality in the state with Albany's permission to install red light cameras - and the results have been dramatic. The city reported a 73 percent drop in violations between 1994, when the cameras first went up, and 2005. Additionally, the city reported a 41 percent reduction in collisions and 35 percent drop in vehicular fatalities.

"These red light cameras will help improve the safety of our roadways and protect every Nassau resident," Senator Craig Johnson, who sponsored the Senate bill, 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.

Although no cameras are slated for installation in the Villages of Floral Park or Stewart Manor, the intersections of Elmont Road and Dutch Broadway and Elmont Road and Linden Boulevard in nearby Elmont are expected to receive cameras, according to a list still under review.

"I am pleased that the governor has signed the bill allowing Nassau County to install red light cameras at 50 intersections. It will make our roads safer, particularly at junctions where we have experienced a high volume of accidents. The measure will also allow us to generate revenue for the county without raising property taxes," County Executive Tom Suozzi said, thanking Senators Johnson and Charles Fuschillo and Assemblymembers Charles Lavine and Earlene Hooper for their efforts in passing the red light camera legislation.

Back in February, 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.

While the revenue generated by these cameras will help Nassau dig itself out of a looming financial hole, Suozzi said additional assistance from Albany is still needed.

"Our health and human service agency contracts are in danger of being cut effective July 1 if the state does not pass legislation allowing us to tax cigarettes and implement an administrative fee on traffic tickets," Suozzi said. "I urge the state legislature to help Nassau County continue to provide vital assistance to some of our most vulnerable residents."

-Victoria Caruso-Davis

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