Insurance Study Supports Giving Red-Light Cameras the Green Light

Red-light cameras at intersections reduce related fatalities by about 25%, according to a new study.Red-light cameras may be controversial, but -- according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety -- they save lives. The analysis, released Tuesday, found that camera enforcement at city intersections cut the death toll from drivers running red lights by almost a quarter, on average.

The study is the first to examine red-light fatalities in multiple and diverse cities across the country, according to the institute, which is financed by the insurance industry. Previous research has consistently shown that red-light programs reduce violations, crashes and injuries, but until now there had been no widespread data to show the cameras' impact on serious crashes that claim lives, says Adrian Lund, the president of the institute.

Studying data from 14 cities, all with populations of 200,000 or more, researchers compared the rates of fatal crashes at intersections before and after these cities installed red-light cameras, and also compared the results to dozens of similarly sized cities without cameras. "We saw large reductions in fatality crashes at intersections," Lund says.

In fact, the researchers estimate that if all of the U.S.'s 99 large cities had been using red-light cameras during the five-year study period from 2004 to 2008, more than 800 deaths would have been prevented.

Red-Light Cameras Remain Controversial

Approximately 500 communities across the country currently use red-light cameras, up from only about 25 in 2000, according to the report.

While national surveys indicate wide public support for the technology, the programs still remain somewhat controversial. Critics claim that some communities are using camera enforcement to raise revenue by issuing more tickets and argue that the programs violate drivers' privacy, Lund says.

But claims of high revenues at the expense of drivers are inaccurate, he says, citing a 2002 California State Auditor report that found that red-light cameras improve traffic safety, but generate little or no additional revenue for most local governments. That report, based on data from 1995 through 2001, found that red-light-camera programs lowered the number of crashes by 10% statewide, but operated on a break-even basis, or at a slight deficit, for most local governments.

Still, red-light running killed 676 people and injured an estimated 113,000 in 2009, according to the institute's newly released study. And most of the time, it's not the lawbreaking driver who pays the price: Other people, including passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists, made up nearly two-thirds of the deaths, the institute says.

Cameras Prevent Other Crashes, Too

In addition to reducing deaths from red-light violations, the cameras also reduce other types of fatal crashes at intersections, according to the report. The researchers theorize that drivers may be more cautious, in general, when they know cameras are around.

The report includes profiles of a number of victims, including 3-year-old Marcus May-Cook, from Lansing, Mich, who died two days after the car in which he was a passenger was broadsided by an unlicensed teenage driver who had run a red light.

"Frankly, one of the things we wanted to do with the study is to bring the focus back to the real victims," Lund says. "The real victims are not the ones running red lights and getting tickets, but the ones getting injured and killed."

In a statement, Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, called the study's findings are "welcome news." Red-light cameras should be included "in state safety toolboxes," she added.

"We have known for years that when the public sees a law being enforced, they will respect it and drive more safely. That has been true with drunk-driving and seat-belt laws, and it is also true with red-light cameras," Harsha said. "This new IIHS study leaves no doubt that red-light cameras are an effective enforcement tool and a key to intersection safety."

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Money maker--plain and simple!

February 02 2011 at 6:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Schaumburg, Il was reported to have over $1 million in a year from a single red-light camera. How much they collected, unknown, but it does not contribute to the coffers??? Baloney!!!!!!!!

February 02 2011 at 5:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find it "funny" that people are making excuses in order to break the law..."oh someone will rear end me if I stop at a red light", "oh its invading my privacy when they take my picture because I have broken the law", "Oh the flashing light will distract me from stopping properly", "oh I have to pay a fine for breaking the law", "Oh its so unfair to have to follow the rules when the cops arent around", "oh its so unfair that the city is making money because I broke the law"

WTF people..Its not THAT hard to stop at a red light or to slow down when it turns yellow. Granted that stopping at a yellow light might cause some accidents but that is only if the person behind you is NOT paying attention. Last I checked that would be their fault. SO if everyone simply pays attention while driving, the number of accident would naturally decrease with or without cameras. If you drive carefully you wont get a ticket. I havent gotten one in a while but thats because I dont run red lights and I dont go more than 10mi over the speed limit.

I agree with another poster, I bet you naysayers would quickly change your tune if a loved one of yours or YOU were killed/severly disabled by someone who simply ran a red light and lived to tell the tale.

February 02 2011 at 3:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Arizona got rid of their cameras - because they didn't give the expected 90 million return of speeding ticket money - because they didn't prosecute the ones who didn't pay. Apparently we don't care whether people get killed, only whether they pay up.

February 02 2011 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I read somewhere that adding 3 - 4 seconds to the yellow light duration saves more lives than the cameras. It certainly would be a simple and low cost item to try.

February 02 2011 at 12:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It is incredible how much bad information is being passed around these comments. No proof of who is driving? Have you all seen the pictures these cameras take. On the one I have seen (my buddy got a ticket from one in Phoenix and they sent him the photograph with the ticket), you could easily see all detail down to eye color and moles on a face. The exception is the goofs that hide their faces. Further, I live near Victirville, California and I have seen the benefit of these cameras. In particular, at the intersection of the 15 freeway and Bear Valley road. Before these cameras, people would get stuck there through green lights because other drivers would run the red lights as it is a very congested intersection. As soon as those cameras came in...that issue And I knew another person who told me they heard the cameras were disabled, but they got a ticket for running the light. And that indicates that if those cameras are removed, the congestion will start again in that area. I am all for these cameras. And as far as the complaints about the cameras being revenue guys can stop that by obeying the rules of the road at those area where there are cameras so that is a weak argument. As easily as the argument can be made that the camerss are only revenue generators, it can be said that the people who want them removed just want to get away with driving infractions.

February 02 2011 at 12:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

well i know it some cities --- the short the yellow time to increase tickets

February 02 2011 at 11:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

well i know it some cities --- the short the yellow time to increase tickets

February 02 2011 at 11:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

well i know it some cities --- the short the yellow time to increase tickets

February 02 2011 at 11:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

It's a scam. They have them down in Toledo,Ohio. When they put them in they went and shortened the Amber Light Time so you have the light dropping Red in a heartbeat. Normal Amber Light Time usually runs from 5 to 7 seconds. Enough for a car entering the zone at the posted speed to get through. Dave is right, it's all about money. They also can't assess points because there is no proof of who is driving. Oh gee,just a fine....and that brings us back to cash flow. If the cities and states aren't making out thru reduced live Traffic Enforcement then the company that runs the lights is charging too much. Just think how many Police Officers you can layoff if you put in a bunch of cameras ? Probably enough to give the Mayor and Police Chief a fat raise !

February 02 2011 at 11:50 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply