We’ve written previously about whether red light cameras are primarily intended to raise revenue. A new analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows red light cameras saved 159 lives in 2004-08 in 14 of the biggest US cities. Extrapolating this data to all large cities, a total of 815 deaths would have been prevented. The results shows that red light cameras reduce not only fatal red light running crashes, but other types of fatal intersection crashes as well.
Red light running killed 676 people and injured an estimated 113,000 in 2009.Sixty-four percent of the deaths were people other than the red light running drivers occupants of other vehicles, passengers in the red light runners’ vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians. Previous research has established that red light cameras deter would-be violators and reduce crashes at intersections with signals.
Institute studies of camera programs have found that red light violations fell at intersections where cameras were installed and that this effect also spilled over to intersections without cameras. An Institute study in Oxnard, Calif., found that injury crashes at intersections with traffic signals fell 29 percent citywide after automated enforcement began. The new study adds to this by showing that cameras reduce not only violations and crashes throughout entire communities but deaths, too.
Red light cameras do have some vocal critics. It is quite possible that the lower fatality rate is a reflection of the overall drop in fatal motor vehicle accidents. But the types of crashes prevented by red light cameras (right-angle collisions) tend to be more severe and more costly than the additional rear-end crashes that can occur. The study notes that the safety consequences of running red lights are considerable.
A study of urban crashes reported that running red lights and other traffic controls was the most common type of crash (22 percent). Injuries occurred in 39 percent of crashes in which motorists ran traffic controls. Compared with the drivers involved in these crashes who did not violate the signal, red light runners were more likely to be male, to be younger than 30, and to have prior crashes, alcohol-impaired driving convictions, or citations for speeding or other moving violations. Violators also were much more likely to have been speeding or alcohol impaired at the time of the crash, and less likely to have had a valid drivers license.
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