While traffic-light cameras are be touted as safety devices, a new study finds that they might actually cause more harm than they prevent. A recent study by the University of South Florida Public Health shows that traffic accidents at intersections with traffic-light cameras have actually increased.
According to the study, drivers are more likely to slam on their brakes when the traffic signal turns yellow at a camera-equipped intersection, resulting in a higher number of rear-end crashes. Moreover, the study found that the cameras have not decreased the number of deaths due to red-light running accidents. "The injury rate from red-light running crashes has dropped by a third in less than a decade, indicating red-light running crashes have been continually declining in Florida without the use of cameras."
And the findings are not just limited to the roads of Florida. Similar studies have been conducted in Virginia, North Carolina and Ontario and have come up with the same results — traffic-cameras increase the number of crashes but do not reduce the number of fatalities due to drivers running red-lights.
But with traffic-cameras fines contributing more and more to municipals' bottom lines, a sudden removal of the cameras doesn't seem likely.
Six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the amber cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. The local governments in question have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.
The cities in question include Union City, CA, Dallas and Lubbock, TX, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, Springfield, MO, according to Motorists.org, which collected information from reports from around the country. This isn't the first time traffic cameras have been questioned as to their effectiveness in preventing accidents. In one case, the local government was forced to issue refunds by more than $1 million to motorists who were issued tickets for running red lights.
The report goes on to note these are just instances that have been identified, and there may be more out there, and urges visitors to send in their own findings.
Posted on April 9, 2008
This is why I am skeptical of any “public safety” argument when it comes to red light cameras.
There is no evidence despite repeated studies that traffic cameras make intersections any safer, yet there is ample evidence to suggest that cities other motives for installing them.
Six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the amber cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. The local governments in question have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.[From Six US cities tamper with traffic cameras for profit]
from the this-again? dept
Just last month there was the latest in a rather long line of reports noting that red light cameras tend to increase the number of accidents because people slam on their brakes to stop in time, leading to rear-ending accidents. Time and time again studies have shown that if cities really wanted to make traffic crossings safer there's a very simple way to do so: increase the length of the yellow light and make sure there's a pause before the cross traffic light turns green (this is done in some places, but not in many others).
Tragically, it looks like some cities are doing the opposite! Jeff Nolan points out that six US cities have been caught decreasing the length of the yellow light below the legal limits in an effort to catch more drivers running red lights and increasing revenue. This is especially disgusting. These cities are actively putting more people in danger of serious injury or death solely for the sake of raising revenue -- while claiming all along that it's for safety purposes. Is it any surprise that one of the six cities is Dallas? Remember, just last month Dallas decided it wasn't going to install any more red light cameras because fewer tickets had hurt city revenue.
The top money-producing red light cameras in Dallas, Texas use short yellow warning times.
The city's second highest revenue producing camera, for example, is located at the intersection of Greenville Avenue and Mockingbird Lane. It issued 9407 tickets worth $705,525 between January 1 and August 31, 2007. At the intersections on Greenville Avenue leadding up to the camera intersection, however, yellows are at least 3.5 or 4.0 seconds in duration, but the ticket producing intersection's yellow stands at just 3.15 seconds. The yellow is .35 seconds shorter than TxDOT's recommended bare minimum.
"For 30 miles per hour, if your yellow time was less than three and a half, you would not be giving that driver enough time to react and brake and stop prior to getting to the intersection," TxDOT Dallas District office transportation engineer supervisor Chris Blain told KDFW.
A small change in signal timing can have a great effect on the number of tickets issued. About four out of every five red light camera citations are issued before even a second has elapsed after the light changed to red, according to a report by the California State Auditor. This suggests that most citations are issued to those surprised by a quick-changing signal light. Confidential documents obtained in a 2001 court trial proved that the city of San Diego, California and its red light camera vendor, now ACS, only installed red light cameras at intersections with high volumes and "Amber (yellow) phase less than 4 seconds."
Dallas likewise installed the cameras at locations with existing short yellow times. A total of twenty-one camera intersections in Dallas have yellow times below TxDOT's bare minimum recommended amount. The Texas Transportation Institute study also found that shorter yellows generate a 110 percent jump in the number of tickets, but at the cost of safety. Increasing the yellow one second above the recommended minimum cut crashes by 40 percent.
Since the Dallas intersection ticketing program launched last December, it has issued $13.5 million worth of automated citations from sixty camera locations. Beginning in September, however, Texas cities must split camera ticket profit with the state. To make up for lost revenue, Dallas plans to install forty more cameras. View KDFW's signal timing chart, a 44k PDF file.
Source: Investigation: Red Light Camera Red Alert (KDFW-TV (TX), 11/13/2007)