Study proves red light cameras reduce traffic fatalities

traffic fatalities

An insurance industry study found that traffic fatalities dropped 26 percent in cities equipped with red light camera systems. Image: CC stevelyon/Flickr

Use of red light cameras by city governments has become more common in the past decade. Motorists typically denounce the presence of red light cameras as revenue-raisers rather than public safety devices. But a recent study shows that red light cameras reduce traffic fatalities, as well as increase revenues.

Red light cameras work as advertised

Red light cameras work as the cities that install them advertise they do, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A study released by the research arm of the insurance industry found that traffic fatalities dropped by 26 percent over five years at intersections equipped with red light cameras. Researchers compared traffic accident data from 14 large U.S. cities with red light cameras against 48 others without them from 2004 to 2008. Traffic fatalities fell for cities in both categories, but the rate of deadly crashes dropped faster in cities with red light cameras. Rear-end collisions increased at intersections with red light cameras, but the more deadly T-bone collisions decreased.

Red light camera statistics

Red light camera statistics in the study also drew on traffic accident data recorded by the federal government. In 2009, 2.2 million crashes occurred at intersections, about 41 percent of all crashes. Those collisions seriously hurt 81,112 people and killed 7,358. Running red lights caused 113,000 of those injuries and 676 of the deaths. About 64 percent of the people who died, including passengers, other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, were killed by the person running the red light. If red light cameras had been in use in all 99 cities included in the study, the researchers estimated that 815 lives would have been saved.

Red light camera revenue backlash

Red light camera revenue adds up to millions of dollars for the cities that use them. In Washington, D.C., red light cameras netted nearly $7.2 million on 85,678 red-light citations from June 2009 through May 2010. In the U.S. about half the states permit red light cameras. In 2000, just 25 cities installed them. Today red light cameras are present at intersections in about 500 cities. The National Motorists Association, a long-time critic of red light cameras, said that longer yellow lights would make intersections safer. Some U.S. cities have passed voter initiatives banning red light cameras as heavy-handed enforcement and an invasion of privacy.


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