A Long Island Lesson In Red-Light Cameras: Is Connecticut Next?


Review of that video on a home computer appears to dissuade most people from mailing in a coupon to request a hearing to contest the ticket.

Those who appear for hearings in Hempstead are offered a review of the video with a clerk before they see the judicial hearing officer. Some haven't viewed it at home and are seeing it for the first time — as was the case with the elderly man on Wednesday — and give up the fight after watching it.

But others go forward to a hearing, at which the judicial official views the video evidence, hears both sides, and then rules. More often than not, it goes against the alleged violator, officials said.

Other than claiming extenuating circumstances, such as a funeral or avoiding a firetruck, the owner of a ticketed vehicle also can get out of a fine by documenting a claim that he or she wasn't driving at the time of the violation. An "affidavit of non-responsibility" is required, along with supporting documentation such as a certified copy of a police report that the vehicle or plate had been stolen.

More Violations

One thing that the Nassau County experience shows is that red-light cameras result in tickets for driver behavior that many police officers often would disregard, such as slow roll-throughs when turning right on red.

The cameras make no exceptions. They activate when a car hits the sensors during a red light, even if it's in the middle of the night and no other cars are near the intersection.

To give an idea of how many more tickets are issued because of the automatic equipment, the annual total of 459,000 camera-initiated red-light tickets in Nassau County is more than twice the 170,000 issued by police for all varieties of traffic violations, Rich said.

He and his boss, Marks, make no apologies for this uncompromising approach. Clerks reviewing videos generally will not issue tickets if a video shows that a motorist stops at a light with the front wheels beyond the white line — as Marks puts it, "you made the effort" — but they are instructed to give no leeway if a vehicle fails to stop completely while turning right on red.

The law says a stop is the "complete cessation of movement," Marks said, and people need to take it seriously.

"In Nassau County the [camera] locations were chosen by the high incidence of crashes," Marks said. "I try not to use the word 'accident' because if something is caused, in my mind it's a crash and not an accident. Accidents will happen, but a crash is something that's avoidable, and if you follow the law you will avoid a crash."

Courant senior information specialist Cristina Bachetti contributed to this report.

Jon Lender is a reporter on The Courant's investigative desk, with a focus on government and politics. Contact him at jlender@courant.com, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115 and find him on Twitter@jonlender.

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