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Cameras Monitoring Traffic Light Infractions Shown to Save Lives

Posted Mar 17 2011 12:00am

It had never occurred to me before, but it makes perfect sense that cameras positioned at red lights to monitor traffic infractions can save lives (see: Red-Light Cameras Save Lives ). Below is an excerpt from an article discussing this topic:

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shown that red-light cameras saved 159 lives over a four-year period in the 14 large U.S. cities where the study took place. The scientists claimed that more than 800 traffic fatalities would have been prevented during the course of the study if the cameras had been deployed in all large U.S. cities. The scientists compared fatal car crash rates in U.S. cities with populations of at least 200,000 for two four-year periods: 1992 to 1996 and 2004 to 2008....In the 14 cities that used red-light cameras during 2004 to 2008, the rate of fatal red-light running crashes was 35 percent lower than in 1992 to 1996. The crash rate did drop in cities that never deployed camera programs, but only by 14 percent. Based on these data, the scientists determined that the rate of fatal red-light running crashes was 24 percent lower in cities with cameras in 2004 to 2008 than it would have been had they not deployed the cameras....The likely explanation for the beneficial effect is that drivers develop more cautious driving behaviors when they know red-light cameras have been deployed....Since 2000, the number of cities using red-light cameras has grown from 25 to 500. Although national surveys suggest there is popular support for red-light camera programs, opponents have turned up their rhetoric in recent years, claiming the programs violate drivers’ privacy, among other things. Drivers frequently denounce red-light cameras as a naked money-making scheme, and there is no doubt the cameras are big revenue generators. Washington, DC for example, pocketed nearly $7.2 million on more than 85,000 camera-generated red-light violations between June 2009 and May 2010.

There is nothing more irritating for me than drivers who run red lights. Such behavior causes all other drivers to be more cautious when accelerating for a green light to avoid a side collision. The fact that cities can generate more revenue with red-light cameras is a bonus but more appealing to me is that fact that drivers are predictably more cautious with red-light cameras in place. The number of saved lived attributable to their use is impressive. I say to city managers, install these cameras whenever and wherever you choose. This seems particularly apt when cities are strapped for cash and fewer police officers may be assigned to traffic duty. Here's some more confirmatory data about the value of red light cameras in reducing traffic accidents (see: How Red-light Cameras Work ):

Acc­ording to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 22 percent of all traffic accidents in the United States are caused by drivers running red lights. Every year, these accidents kill some 800 people and rack up an estimated $7 billio­n dollars in property damage, medical bills, lost productivity and insurance hikes. And this sort of traffic violation seems to be on the rise. In many areas, red-light violations have increased by 10 percent or more since the 1980s.

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