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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 violators 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also points out 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.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly, a member of Garden City's Traffic Commission, understands the state and county reel in most of the revenue from red light cameras but asked staff to look into getting the village on board.

"I would like the village to look into that prospect as well. I realize that current legislation precludes villages from participating," Donnelly said. "What would it take for us to be included in that legislation?"

Police Commissioner Ernest Cipullo explained that only the state legislature could OK such a procedure and even if it did, there's a four-year evaluation period that must follow. The village board would have final approval power over the issue.

"[Red light cameras] can only be installed where it's a county intersection ... Even if we wanted to do this we wouldn't be able to do anything for four years," Commissioner Cipullo said.

All traffic lights located within the Village of Garden City are county-owned.

Garden City's own Kemp Hannon, a senator for the 6th District, did vote for the red light camera authorization. "With the number of traffic fatalities and incidences along Hempstead Turnpike and Jericho Turnpike, and throughout Nassau County, we need to address people who look at a yellow light as incentive to speed up instead of an incentive to slow down," Hannon told the Garden City Life.

Hannon added, "The operation of the cameras in New York City has proven to be one where the people who are caught are given a picture. It proves that they ran a red light."

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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