NMA E-Newsletter #188: Force Multiplier

Force Multiplier: A tool to amplify effort in order to produce more output.

There are any number of examples in our daily lives of force multipliers: A microphone. A hammer. An escalator. A school bus. The dreaded “reply to all” email option.

In the world of traffic enforcement, it is a term that is frequently used by red-light camera companies to promote their wares to the uninitiated.

The argument goes something like this: If you put up ticket cameras at high-volume intersections, the cops who would normally patrol those beats are freed up to do other police work. Instead of hiring more officers to monitor traffic, let the cameras take on the burden of ticketing scofflaws.

Of course, the camera companies don’t dwell on the fact that that each camera costs upwards of $75,000 to install and can easily rack up operational costs of several thousand dollars each month. The local police also have to assign manpower to inspect the photo evidence; each camera ticket is supposed to be examined to determine whether a violation occurred and whether a ticket should be issued.

Nevertheless, the red-light camera is portrayed as a force multiplier for law enforcement by those who stand to profit.

We have found another way to credit ticket cameras as force multipliers. Last month, the NMA paid for a high-profile series of traffic surveys in New Jersey. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) had just recertified the camera operations at 63 intersections across several cities without doing anything more than accepting reports from each city to indicate that everything was A-OK. These are the same cities that profit by having the red-light cameras up and running (and ticketing). The NMA stepped in to represent the interests of New Jersey motorists.

Our team did find traffic signals at several intersections with yellow light timings that were not in compliance with state law. This caught the attention of the media. The NJDOT and affected cities have some explaining to do, particularly to a motoring public that has been hit with several million dollars worth of photo tickets over the course of the past few years at these and other similar intersections.

One team standing up for the interests of millions. That is force multiplication at its utmost.

The media coverage from the Garden State has provided us with another high-profile opportunity. Two New York City councilmen who represent the Borough of Staten Island contacted the NMA last week. Their constituents have complained loudly about short yellow lights generating extraordinarily high numbers of photo tickets. The councilmen asked if we could help them verify whether the yellow lights are set properly for the given traffic flow. We are researching the Staten Island situation as this newsletter is being written.

When these opportunities surface, we must be ready to act. That means having the resources to get the job done. If you have a membership renewal notice in hand, are considering an upgrade from a basic to a NMA supporting membership for just $35 per year, or are looking for a reason to donate to the Association, please consider the type of support it takes to finance projects like the New Jersey and Staten Island investigations. You too can be a force multiplier for drivers’ rights.

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