A lawmaker is fiercely opposed to a proposed law that would allow video surveillance to be used on New Jersey school buses to generate automatic $250 tickets that would be issued to any driver that passes a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, who led the charge against money-making red-light cameras in New Jersey a few years ago, said the legislation would open the door to have these same firms operate red-light cameras on buses.

He said this would become nothing more than a “money grab" by companies who get to keep a cut of fines people pay.

Also, the proposed law is unnecessary because buses already have the technology to take pictures of violators, he said.

“The very premise of almost all their products is fraudulent, so I have no trouble being truthful about the motivation of these companies: It’s to make money. It has nothing to do with safety," he charged.

He said safety is paramount but “what we shouldn’t do is let these corrupt for-profit companies come in and automate these systems. If that happens, the incentive goes from safety to profit.”

O’Scanlon said red-light camera companies have misrepresented what their involvement would be with school bus cameras and they should not be trusted.

He also said many people in New Jersey don’t realize it’s already legal for school buses to be equipped with side video cameras, and most buses are equipped with the technology to support such surveillance.

He pointed out if the school bus driver sees a vehicle illegally pass the bus, the video will be marked by pushing a button. The police can be notified and they will issue a $100 summons in the mail.

O’Scanlon said if the school bus camera system is automated, many drivers who think they are obeying the law will wind up getting $250 tickets because they may not be able to judge exactly how far behind the bus they have stopped.

“Not many people will know this, but you’ve got to stop 25 feet. Well, if you stop 24 feet or 23 feet — Boom! — a several-hundred-dollar ticket.”

He also said if you’re approaching a stopped school bus from the opposite direction and there’s a grassy median between the roadways, the law says you can continue but must slow down to 10 mph. Many drivers, however, may go 11 or 12 mph, so “virtually everyone passing a bus under those circumstances would get one of these multi-hundred-dollar tickets," O'Scanlon said. "There’s no need for it.”

He suggested the sponsors of the bill may not understand these details, and if they did, they would not be promoting the legislation.

Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, the prime sponsor of the school bus camera bill, pointed out that his measure does not require school bus companies to use red light camera companies to automate their systems. And he said he favors a $250 fine instead of the current $100 summons for this kind of violation.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, said she has decided to withdraw her name from the bill because she is concerned about the technical issues O’Scanlon has raised. She suggested the legislation may need to be re-worked.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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