Red light cameras reduce car accidents.
Don’t Believe That!
In 2009 the Los Angeles Police Department claimed that their red light cameras had reduced accidents by 34%, but a CBS reporter became suspicious. The reporter examined the data (after paying $500 for the privilege) and it showed a very different picture: comparing six-month periods before and after cameras were installed at 32 different L.A. intersections, accidents had increased or stayed the same at 23 of them! The LAPD was only providing data for one type of accident (right angle or “t-bone” collisions). Rear-end collisions had increased significantly, with total incidents even tripling at some intersections.
While red light cameras may decrease the number of drivers passing through the intersection after the light has changed, it comes at a cost. Many of those drivers are slamming on the brakes at a yellow light for fear of getting a ticket.
Dozens of traffic-light studies indicate a clear overall trend: red light cameras do not decrease the total number of accidents at intersections where they are installed. A reduction in side collisions is usually more than offset by an increase in rear collisions.
“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study actually found cities using red light cameras had higher red light running fatality rates.”
– Florida Public Health Review (2012)
“Comprehensive studies conclude cameras actually increase crashes and injuries …”
– University of South Florida (2008)
“The cameras were associated with an increase in total crashes …”
– Virginia Department of Transportation (2007)
“… the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled …”
– The Washington Post (2005)
“… the installation of [red light cameras] at these sites did not provide any reduction in accidents …”
– Australian Road Research Board (1995)
According to some estimates, 80% or more of all tickets issued are for failure to make a complete stop before turning right on red (hardly a major safety concern). The most dangerous “red light runners” only account for a small portion of all infractions.
Why do cities continue to install red light cameras if they do not improve public safety? The real reason may be, money. Cities in California, Texas, Missouri and Tennessee have even been caught shortening yellow light duration to below the recommended, or legal, minimum, in apparent bids to increase the number of tickets issued. One city was forced to refund over $1 million in fines; others have removed the cameras altogether.