Study: Hated Red Light Cameras Reduce Accidents

MIAMI (CBS4) – The car comes barreling through a bright red light, just in time to broadside a fire truck that has the green light.  The car is demolished, the driver injured.  It is one of dozens of red light crashes on a video released by one of the three major companies that provide red light cameras to cities across South Florida and the country.

The American Traffic Solutions (ATC) video chronicles many of the crashes and near-misses recorded by cameras that nab red light “scofflaws” and generate pricey tickets.  The two minute-long clip is intended to illustrate the damage caused by red light running, and also to publicize the effectiveness of the cameras in reducing accidents.

The cameras have proved controversial.  Many motorists loathe the notion that they can be nabbed by a machine and not a cop.

“I hate them very much,” said a woman waiting at a red light in Doral Tuesday. “It’s not fair.”

Not fair? Maybe. Effective? Definitely.

According to ATC, a study by the Institute For Highway Safety revealed that in cities with red light cameras, fatal red light collisions declined an average 24 percent in 2011.  In Miami Gardens alone, red light collisions overall dropped a whopping 83 percent. The City of Aventura reported that red light crashes have declined by 200 in the two years the city has used the cameras.

“I hate them,” said John Vera as he waited at a camera-equipped intersection. But he said he thinks about them.

“It’s made me a more conscious driver,” Vera admitted.

Miami Police Sgt. Freddie Cruz said the red light cameras have made many drivers much more careful, knowing they might be caught on candid camera.

“It’s an excellent tool. It assists us with awareness and with violators,” Cruz said, adding that the cameras free cops from having to stake out intersections.

“Our manpower, we can allocate them and stretch them out to other crime reduction operations,” Cruz said.

Officer Kenia Reyes said images from the cameras have also helped police solve more serious crimes.  They sometimes reveal suspect vehicles fleeing from nearby crime scenes, and help police identify hit and run drivers.

“Just by playing those videos back has been able to assist our investigators in closing their cases,” Reyes said.

Nationwide, there are some 650 cities using nearly 7,000 red light cameras.

The cameras generate roughly $3 million a year for Florida’s Trauma fund, and have added more than $100 million to the state’s general coffers.

More from Gary Nelson
  • Chucky...

    No, No, No…

    This is nothing more than the ol’ bait and switch routine; a mere misdirection scheme.

    Red light accidents are down? Good, maybe the policy has helped in this regard.

    But that beneficial by-product could have just as well been served with a strident and well heeled PSA program.

    And freeing Aventura police to do what? What else do they do in that 2-mile long speed trap? They evidently don’t care much about gridlock scofflaws.

    No, no, the so-called benefit of the camera misuse does not detract from the fact that 90 percent of the business written is for the, again so-called, right-on-red violation, or the re-definition of such.

    This is not about the blatant disregard for a red light in the middle of an intersection scenario, but it is all about a cheap-shot way for cities in the area to bolster their bank accounts.

  • Carol

    My husband and I never run red lights but with those cameras around we do make very sure when the light turns yellow we make very sure to be slowing down because the light will be turning red very shortly after and we have time to come to a full stop.

    But it is sad that certain parts of the Florida have to have red light cameras to make sure nobody runs the red lights but if they are working that is wonderful because to many people are being injured and killed.

  • Michael

    While their Red light crashes has decreased by 200%, their Rear-end collisions from drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid a ticket has gone up 400%!! Data can be looked 2 ways as Chucky puts it its just a way for cities to fatten their bank accounts!

  • Henry

    You can make intersections safe, without cameras. Thus, without increased rearenders, driving away the tourists, or sending local money to AZ or OZ where it will never come back.
    A. Increasing yellows by 0.5 sec. yields a 50 – 70% drop in violations. It’s cheap to do all over town, reducing running everywhere, not just at “camera” intersections.
    Longer yellows cut bad accidents. A 2004 study by the TX Transp. Inst. found “…an increase in the yellow duration of 1.0 sec. is associated with a [crash freq.] of about 0.6, which corresponds to a 40% reduction in crashes.”
    (Whenever someone suggests longer yellows, someone else will say, “Drivers will just get used to the longer yellows, and run those, too!” Actually, the running stays down. It does not rebound. In Mesa AZ they increased the yellows by 1 sec. in 2000, and running dropped to 1/3 of what it had been, and has stayed down.)
    B. Improve the visual cues that say, “You’re coming to a major intersection.” Florida’s DOT found that better markings (more paint!) near intersections cut running by up to 74% without increasing rearenders. Also make the signal lights brighter, bigger in diameter, add backboards to them, and place the poles on the NEAR side of the intersection, not so far away. Put brighter bulbs in the street lights at intersections. Put up lighted name signs for the cross streets.

    Experience has shown most cities lose money on the cameras. So, who needs cameras?

  • Don

    Traffic lights should have “count down” numbers on them so drivers know when they will turn yellow, from a distance, and when they turn green from red to maximize traffic flow. Many traffic lights in Lima, Peru have these timers which help improve traffic flow, reducing people from entering an intersection if the light is about to turn yellow, and eliminating red light runners, especially if the “runner” knows the cross traffic will start to go as soon as they get a green and an accident would be imminent. (though they still can have grid-lock anyway; another story!!) Sometimes crosswalk timers can be used here in Florida, but not as effective.

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