The debate continues over whether cities should install cameras to catch people running red lights. The cameras are often installed at intersections, and proponents insist they save lives and money. However, the evidence is not conclusive.
Study claims cameras make motorists safer
Red light cameras may not save as many lives as claimed, according to AOL News. Red light cameras photograph the driver or license plate of car going through an intersection during a red light. The driver or owner of the car later gets a ticket in the mail. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released a study claiming traffic cameras reduced fatalities, citing that 14 cities with the cameras experienced reduced fatalities in crashes between 1996 and 2004 that involved one vehicle running a red light. However, the study noted 48 of the 99 cities studied lacked the red light cameras and experienced reduced fatal traffic accidents involving motorists running a red light, according to MSNBC. There is growing evidence that the cameras are distracting to motorists and cause an increase in rear-end collisions. The Federal Highway Administration found in 2005 that rear-end collisions increased by almost 15 percent at red light camera equipped intersections, with a 25 percent increase in injuries.
Studies are beginning to come out that increasing the amount of time that a traffic signal spends on “yellow” reduces the number of traffic accidents by giving motorists more time to slow down. One study in Texas found that an extra second of yellow light reduces accidents in which a motorist runs a red light by 40 percent, and information on the National Motorists Association website cites studies in which incidents of running red lights drop off drastically when the length of time on yellow is increased. The city of Loma Linda, Calif., observed a 92 percent reduction in drivers running red lights.
The bottom line
Tickets for moving violations are a large source of revenue to cities. A city that installs the cameras can expect about $1 million in revenues from them per year, and about a third goes to the company that installs and maintains the cameras. Most states mandate that the length of “yellow light” at any given traffic signal be at least 4 seconds. However, several municipalities that installed the cameras were found to have calibrated yellow lights to last three seconds. Less time for drivers to react means a greater chance they will run a red light and get ticketed.