Do red-light camera programs improve safety for motorists?
The ongoing controversy over whether red-light cameras are designed to raise revenues rather than improve safety for motorists has led as many as 158 communities to turn these cameras off in the last five years. Now, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that doing so leads to more deaths from accidents caused by red-light running. These accidents often involve a driver broad siding another car ("T-boning), and these crashes are often fatal.
"Debates over automated enforcement often center on the hassle of getting a ticket and paying a fine," said the institute's president, Adrian Lund.
While these cameras are not popular with motorists, the study found that cities that turn off the cameras see an increase in fatalities by nearly one-third. At the same time, other studies indicate that rear-end crashes are more likely when motorists speed through yellow-lights, but that these accidents are far less deadly than T-bone crashes.
Red-Light Study at a Glance
The study compared annual crash rates in 14 cities that stopped using red-light cameras with the rate of accidents in 29 cities that continued using them. Not only did red-light running crashes go up, there more overall accidents. The study also looked at a number of cities that have yet to use red-light cameras compared to cities with cameras in place. Again, fatalities are more prevalent in cities lacking a red-light camera program. The rate of all accidents was also lower in cities in the same region that had camera programs. The takeaway: these cameras not only improve safety, they deter other driving mistakes by motorists.
"It's important to remember that there are hundreds of people walking around who wouldn't be here if not for red-light cameras," said Lund.
The AAA automobile club also supports the proper use of these programs, provided, however, that they are deployed at intersections with a high number of fatalities. The AAA also believes fines collected for red-light violations should only be used for traffic safety programs, not merely as a means to raise revenue. On the other hand, the auto-club has also backed removal of the cameras in localities that did not meet these tests and placed cameras randomly.
While the cameras will most likely continue to be widely unpopular, motorists must ask themselves whether they would prefer speaking with a vehicle-and-traffic-law attorney for running a red light, or lose a loved one in a traffic fatality. The law firm of Ianniello Andersen, PC routinely helps individuals in the Capital Region who have received red-light camera violations.