Red Light Cameras Increase Crashes And Insurance Rates - Study

Miami (FL) - A University Of South Florida College Of Public Health study says red light cameras actually increase the number and severity of crashes. The study examined red light camera accident data from around the United States and Canada and found an up to 40% increase in accident rates at some camera-equipped intersections. Researchers also contend that insurance companies benefit from the cameras by increasing the premiums of offenders.

"The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don't work," said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, a professor at the University of South Florida. Orban's team compiled data from five red-light traffic studies and concluded that accident rates increase between 29 and 50 percent at most red-light camera intersections. One North Carolina study showed injury crashes actually rose between 40 and 50 percent over a five year period. Another Virginia Transportation Research Council study calculated an accident rate increase of 29 percent.

The main cause of accidents was people slamming on the brakes to avoid going through a yellow light. Orban claims drivers would normally go through a yellow light at uncontrolled intersections.

Red-light camera supporters have often claimed that the cameras reduce the number of more severe side-impact or "T-Bone" crashes, but the USF study found that controlled intersections saw no measurable decrease in severe accident rates.

Florida has so far banned cities and counties from using red-light cameras, but Hillsborough County has recently approved the installation of 10 red-light cameras. Red-light ticket revenue has been a windfall for cash-strapped cities. San Diego made $30 million in 18 months from such tickets with $7 million coming from one camera. Hundreds of those tickets were thrown out in August 2001 by Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn after discovering that red-light camera maker Lockheed Martin IMS received $70 per ticket.

Orban is advocating giving drivers more time to safely clear the intersection by increasing yellow light times or by making a brief all-red intersection.

You can read the entire study here.