February 8, 2013: Traffic cameras cause a lot of controversy. In an earlier blog post announcing red light cameras were coming to Jacksonville, we discussed how for years, Florida state law neither allowed not prohibited red light cameras until July 2010. Currently, the intesections of Southside Boulevard and Baymeadows Road and Southside Boulevard and Touchton Road are the only active red light cameras, but there are 6 additional intersections under contstruction with 10 more waiting for approval.
Do Red Light Cameras Work?
Some folks appreciate the way that the mere presence of a camera can make motorists drive more cautiously. Others see them as a scam imposed on the public by for profit companies working with local agencies. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has just conducted a new study, which reveals that one type of traffic camera — the red-light camera — can reduce the number of drivers who run red lights and the many accidents they cause. The study was conducted in Virginia, where IIHS is based. The IIHS researchers used cameras to track the red light cameras, The first month, IIHS recorded those intersectionsfor an initial 30-day period when drivers were given warnings only after running the light. IIHS then recorded the intersections for a second month once drivers were given tickets for infractions, and finally for a third 30 days a year later to see if red light running had decreased.
IIHS compared those tape recordings to ones it made of four Arlington intersections that did not have red light cameras. The study found that a year after red-light running drivers at the camera-equipped intersections began receiving tickets, running œslightly red lights was reduced by 39%, running red lights was down by 48%, and running œvery red lights had dropped by 86%, Halsey writes. IIHS concluded that those violations most likely to lead to a crash are reduced the most. Thus, automated enforcement can get drivers to modify their behavior.
Acording to IIHS, there are now about 540 U.S. communities using red light cameras. For example, IIHS notes that its 2011 study of large cities with long-standing red light cameras found that the equipment reduced fatal red-light running crashes by 24%, and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at intersections that have traffic signals by 17%.
IIHS’ studies are not accepted by all as the end all, be all. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out there are many who question the use of violations as a measure of safety. The author interviewed several individuals who are critical of IIHS. œIt is meaningless to study violations, Barbara Langland Orban, an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of South Florida, wrote in an email. œSafety is measured in crashes, in particular injury crashes, and violations are not a proxy for injuries. Also, violations can be whatever number an agency chooses to report, which is called an ˜endogenous variable’ in research and not considered meaningful as the number can be manipulated. In contrast, injuries reflect the number of people who seek medical care, which cannot be manipulated by the reporting methods of jurisdictions.
Some camera critics question the IIHS’s motives, since its members can charge some motorists if they have been ticketed for running a red light. œIt is financially to their benefit to have more camera tickets issued, said James C. Walker, a board member of the National Motorists Association, a 10,000-member drivers organization in Waunakee, Wis., that opposes the cameras. œTo me, they’re just not unbiased. Orban, co-author of several papers critical of IIHS research, also made this criticism. œWe caution against using IIHS studies as evidence of camera effectiveness, Orban said, adding, œThey have a financial conflict of interest.
What do you think about traffic cams?