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Study Confirms Red Light Cameras Save Lives

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

Red light cameras cut down on crashes and save lives, according a study released Tuesday. The study, conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, compared fatality data in 99 large cities from 1992 through 1996 and 2004 through 2008, concluding that fatality rates decreased in cities which installed red light cameras in the interim.  

According to the study, just 14 of the 99 cities installed red light cameras between 1996 and 2004 – but in those 14 cities, 159 lives were saved due to the cameras. That’s because fatal red light-running crashes in those cities dropped 35 percent in 2004-08 versus 1992-96, compared to a drop of just 14 percent in the cities without red light cameras. If all 99 cities had installed the cameras, says the IIHS, a total of 815 lives would have been saved.

But it isn’t just red light-running crashes that dropped due to the installation of the cameras. In 2004-08, the overall rate of fatal crashes at intersections with signals dropped 14 percent in the cities with cameras versus 1992-96, but actually went up 2 percent in cities without cameras, clearly illustrating the benefit the cameras have on eliminating violent collisions at intersections.

“The cities that have the courage to use red light cameras despite the political backlash are saving lives,” said IIHS president Adrian Lund.

But the political backlash can be harsh. Critics argue that the cameras don’t reduce crashes, but simply turn side impacts into rear impacts as drivers slam on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket. But the IIHS says it would take that tradeoff, noting that side impacts are usually much more serious than rear-end crashes. Critics also insist that the cameras are a violation of personal privacy, or that they’re simply a revenue generation tool for cities that to do little to make the roads safer. But the IIHS dismisses those arguments.

“Somehow, the people who get tickets because they have broken the law have been cast as the victims,” said Lund. “We rarely hear about the real victims – the people who are killed or injured by these lawbreakers.”

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Study Confirms Red Light Cameras Save Lives - Autotrader