Study Finds Red Light Cameras Cut Fatal Crashes

WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Red light cameras were sold to the public as a way to reduce serious accidents, but some saw it as a new revenue stream for strapped cities.  Now the first nationwide study includes Baltimore.

Mike Schuh has more.

These were installed to get people’s attention.  Run the red, pay the fine and next time you’ll probably stop instead of blowing through.  This study confirms that idea.

When red light cameras started appearing on lampposts around town, something remarkable happened.

“At a typical intersection, we expect once a red light camera goes in, the reductions may go down by 60-80 percent,” said Randall Scott, Traffic Division.

It stands to reason a reduction in violations will mean a reduction in bad crashes.  In fact, that’s what has happened.  A study of 14 cities over four years shows 159 lives saved, a 24 percent reduction in fatalities.  In Baltimore, we had a 14 percent reduction.

So what does that mean?  How many people are unknowingly alive because they weren’t involved in a red light crash?  In Baltimore, over four years, three.

Unblinking and ever watchful, some motorists see the camera as a big brother revenue generator.  The city has collected millions in fines, but they say the study proves the safety benefits.

“It supports the idea that red light cameras are effective, so that indicates that that’s a tool we have to look at,” Scott said.

AAA chooses its words carefully in support of the cameras.

“The study provides evidence that red light cameras can save lives when the goal is to make roads safer, not revenue generation,” said Christine Delise, AAA.

There are 78 red light cameras now. The city expects to add two or three per year.

There are 99 cities in America with populations of 200,000 or more.  The authors of the study calculate that 815 lives would have been saved if all of the cities used red light cameras.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says those who run red lights are most likely to be younger, with poor driving records.  They are not likely to wear seat belts.

More from Mike Schuh
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  • Dorothy Gale

    The only time I got a red light camera ticket is when I went through a red light because I had an ambulance behind me and there was no one in sight on the intersecting road. No cop would have ever given me a ticket.
    Now I will be darned if I am ever going to go through an intersection at a red light, sirens behind me or not.

    • shiv

      so it is best to let the Ambulance rear end you? i am sure the picture will show an ambulance on your tail so i am pretty sure you can fight it and win. matter of fact i think it would be no contest.

      for the people who think the red light cameras and speed cameras are nothing but revenue generators, i have a great idea. it is SO great i am unsure why people have not thought of it sooner. do you know HOW to avoid speeding tickets? don’t speed! it is simple math but most people are blockheads and continue to be reckless. the only way to curb stupid behavior is to hit them in the wallet. or take away their license or lock them up for the greater good if they keep being hazards on the road.

  • Robert

    Sure. Obviously the government commissioned and financed this study with dollars generated from the citations issued by these revenue generators. For people that believe they are there to preserve public safety; I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The people researching it probably were informed what they should conclude at the “study’s” inception. I have not and will not buy the bogus rationale for these cameras, especially the speed zone camera’s which operate over the weekend and at night when road crews are done for the day. People can be so gullible.

    • shiv

      i would agree it DOES generate revenue. but it does not have to. keep speeding and you will feed the coffers. like i said don’t speed and you don’t have to worry. and it COULD save lives. and if it only serves as a deterrent then that is a benefit as well.

  • Insurance_Companies_Lie

    So…the story studies fatal accidents caused solely by “Red-Light Runners”?

    Do they factor in how many people have been killed by people slamming on their brakes, causing the drivers behind them to rear-end them?

    Do they factor in the number of whiplash victims, paralyzed passengers, etc.? Or does the “Insurance” institute simply study the positive aspects of giving someone a ticket….such as INCREASING insurance rates to boost revenues?

    • Insurance_Companies_Lie

      And…if the cameras were “installed to get people’s attention” why are they not painted bright purple and yellow with signs posted at least 50 feet before the intersection that state “WARNING: RED LIGHT CAMERA INSTALLED AT THIS INTERSECTION”?

      I’m sure the state wants people to know exactly where the cameras are…that’s precisely why they hide them behind trees or on the top of light poles, or post “decoy” red light cameras…some intersections have poles which look like cameras but which aren’t actually functioning…some do. Yeah, we should always take what the Insurance companies say at face value…just ask the good paid-up customers of Nationwide, State Farm, etc. on the Gulf Coast who are still waiting for payment from the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

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