Red Light Cameras Reducing Intersection Collisions

Mar 04, 2011

Red light camera above intersectionRed-light cameras saved 159 lives in 2004-08 in 14 of the biggest U.S. cities, according to a new analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

"The cities that have the courage to use red-light cameras despite the political backlash are saving lives," said IIHS President Adrian Lund.

Looking at the 99 U.S. cities with populations over 200,000, the researchers compared those with red-light camera programs to those without. Because they wanted to see how the rate of fatal crashes changed after the introduction of cameras, they compared two periods -- 2004-08 and 1992-96. Cities that had cameras during 1992-96 were excluded from the analysis, as were cities that had cameras for only part of the later study period.

The researchers found that in the 14 cities that had cameras during 2004-08, the combined per capita rate of fatal red light-running crashes fell 35 percent, compared with 1992-96. The rate also fell in the 48 cities without camera programs in either period, but only by 14 percent.

Based on that comparison, the researchers concluded that the rate of fatal red light-running crashes in cities with cameras in 2004-08 was 24 percent lower than it would have been without cameras. That adds up to 74 fewer fatal red light-running crashes or, given the average number of fatalities per red light-running crash, approximately 83 lives saved.

The actual benefit is even bigger, IIHS said. The rate of all fatal crashes at intersections with signals -- not just red light-running crashes -- fell 14 percent in the camera cities and crept up 2 percent in the non-camera cities. In the camera cities, there were 17 percent fewer fatal crashes per capita at intersections with signals in 2004-08 than would have been expected. That translates into 159 people who are alive because of the automated enforcement programs, IIHS said.

Based on these calculations, if red-light cameras had been in place for all five years in all 99 U.S. cities with populations over 200,000, a total of 815 deaths could have been avoided, IIHS said.

"Examining a large group of cities over several years allowed us to take a close look at the most serious crashes, the ones that claim people's lives," said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research and a co-author of the study. "Our analysis shows that red-light cameras are making intersections safer."

[via Automotive Fleet]


Photo courtesy of Scott Akerman and re-used under the Creative Commons license.