Study Says Red Light Cameras Reduce Crashes, Save Lives

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– When defending the placement of red-light cameras, politicians are quick to say they are being installed to make the roads safer.

Now, as Mike Schuh reports, a five-year study backs up their claims.

It seems like they’re on every corner.

Reporter: “Have you gotten a ticket?”
Motorist Alyson Peppersack: “Yes.”

And at $60 a flash, governments say people should learn to stop, rather than go.

A five-year study seems to confirm that in areas with cameras, fatal red light crashes are down by 24 percent.

“That’s good then, I guess,” Andrea Barone said. “They’re helpful.”

The study of 14 cities over five years shows 159 lives were saved.

Peppersack: “Who says that?”
Reporter: “Insurance Highway Institute’s study. You don’t buy it?”
Peppersack: “No.”
Reporter: “How come?”
Peppersack: “I just don’t.”

“That figure seems to me like it would be accurate, and that people would think before they went through a red light because they would be afraid of getting a ticket,” Wendy Norris said. “So I’m fine with it.”

If those statistics are to be believed, then many people are changing their behavior to avoid getting a ticket. But many people believe that those cameras are just a way for the government to generate more money.

The head of the National Motorists Association says just lengthening the duration of the yellow can reduce red-light running by 50 percent or more.

But are these devices doing both– saving lives and generating money?

“There are others who think they are strictly a money-generating device,” Barone said. “Yeah, definitely! That’s what I think.”

The Insurance Highway Institute says that had red light cameras been installed in all U.S. cities with populations above 200,000, 815 deaths would have been prevented.

More from Mike Schuh
  • Richard Wilson

    I’m not sure I understand the stistics. How did the study work. Did it look at only intersections where red light cameras where installed? Or at all intersections with traffic lights? Then they concluded “what” that they didn’t work 76% of the time? If you have a 24% reduction………that saved 159 lives in 5 years? However who’s to say that a leven one life was saved because of the camera? Might it have been “safer cars”? traffic deaths have been on the decline for the last several years, so it’s logical to believe that as much as 10% of the reduction could be accounted for by better air bags.

    The 50% reduction from longer yellows? i’d bet that would cost far less and save more lives. The cost, maintence, ticketing, and collection of fines from red light cameras amount to big money. I might suggest that it’s not working as well as some people would think. If you did a similar study on intersections with longer yellows, what would be the cost to benifit ratio?

  • sheriff

    They should be on every corner as far as I’m concerned. Thoughtless knuckleheads speeding because “Their time is more important than mine”, should be ticketed & fined big time . Arrogant pricks in a hurry to go where? the graveyard.

  • alissamoore

    My 2 cents, after all I’ve paid the fine several times. Red light camera’s I don’t have an issue with. It’s the school zone ones. They should ONLY be serviceable during school operation times, not after kids are out of school and at home, on weekends, holidays and summer breaks. This is where it is strongly believed to be a money generating device. I for one have had a talk with my feet 20/25mph and if my car is going too slow, then go around.

  • Matt Hay

    Wait, are you recycling the 8 month old study that IIHS released? This “study” could not even tell you how many intersections had the systems installed. They compared like 95-99 as the pre-camera period versus 04-08 as the post installation period. Given the fact a) many more miles were driven in 95-99 than in 04-08 due to economic conditions, also never minding b) an entire new generation of airbags and safety standards were put into the wild in the interim decade. That is like comparing the model A to the cars of today and saying that red light cameras made the roads safer. I believe the miles driven had decreased like 30% due to the economy (fuel prices), this on balance made absolutely no difference. There variables were not accounted for in the IIHS study. By the way, was this meant to counteract the damage to the scamera industry by the US Public Interest Research Group study released today that says these are a for profit scam with no safety motivations? Why elese try and pass off an 8 month old IIHS study as “news” on the very same day. #Fail Try again. Baltimore is not that stupid.

  • St Pete Driver

    It’s pretty clear from your report that you did not read the study you are reporting on. You should take the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “death study” results with a grain of salt(or maybe a pound of it). The IIHS member organizations make millions every year off of red light cameras, and this study assumes that red light cameras are the only reason for the decline in intersection deaths. In other words, intersection engineering changes and changing traffic volumes are completely ignored by their study so they can promote red light cameras. They also chose a very small percentage of red-light-camera-installed-cities, and they cherry-picked the time periods for their study to fit their desired results. This study is about as valid as when the tobacco industry claimed that cigarette smoking increases lung capacity. Also, if you had done your research on this report you would have known that two of the cities mentioned have openly refuted the IIHS study statistics, saying they are inaccurate and misleading. Oh, and I didn’t mention the unprecedented 7-year gap in their data, but then again you didn’t mention that either did you…

  • Hugh

    No doubt that the red light cameras are a deterant for people who often run lights. I think it’s fine, but I’d much prefer the longer yellow light. The speed cameras…as one poster said, they shouldn’t be operating when school is not in session.

  • King

    If the study of 159 lives saved over a 5 year period is correct, then it’s not due to the red light cameras being installed, it’s due to the yellow lights being extended giving drivers enough time to clear the intersection.

  • cameras suck
  • Nicole

    Does anyone remember that it is actually illegal to run a red light or drive above the posted speed? If these cameras mean that a police officer can be responding to emergencies and not pulling over a traffic offender, then I am all for it.

  • James Daniel

    I like how this talks about how many lives it saved from red light runners, but never talks about the amount of money people pay to have their brakes done, or cars repaired from being rear-ended. I guess that isn’t apart of safety though.

  • Robert

    Greetings. Maryland resident Here. Sure, SIDE-impacts are down 50% BUT REAR-end collisions are up 80%. Safety? Montgomery County alone made over $10 million last year on red Light Cameras alone. No stats on Speed cameras but it is at least 1/2 mill based on the $40 buck ticket. {Red Light is $75}. Only took 01 $40 speed camera ticket (47 in a 35 coming off the highway) for me to learn how to “drive” again (smile). First “speeding” ticket for me in over 30+ years. I am 57 (lol)! Be Careful Out There! Fines, Penalties, Booting, Tag-Flagging, Towing & Interest are all piling up & perfectly “legal”. Safety? yeah, Right. What Are They Doing w/the collected $$??

  • STFU sherrif

    Don’t worry soon there will be black boxes in our cars and we will not be able to do anything without the insurance companies or law enforcement downloading our information. I mean why not make cars only go 65 mph tops and not allow the car to start unless we have our belt on. If we go through a red light it comes right out of our credit card or bank. Hey govoner there is a great way for you to get more money. Hey sheriff get real. Typical politicaly correct answer. How many people died having to work extra to pay for all the extra fees-taxes-fines-etc………………..

  • James C. Walker

    The ” study” was done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that should really be named the Insurance Institute for Higher Surcharges. Their member insurance companies make millions of dollars per year from surcharges given to some of their safest policyholders when they get traffic tickets. It is a massive conflict of interest that makes their “study” extremely questionable. You might as well ask the fox how the hens enjoyed the visit. See our website for some of the unbiased research into longer yellow intervals that ACTUALLY make violations lower and intersections safer. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association,, Ann Arbor, MI

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