Jan. 29, 2013
-- When red light cameras first debuted at intersections, they were a novelty. The large cameras are flanked by spotlights that illuminate the road at night. All it takes is a sensor just past the crosswalk to tell the camera when to snap a picture. Now, they are a common sight utilized in the fight against red light runners and cars blocking the intersection during high traffic.
Whether the cameras were effective was not officially confirmed. Some critics felt the sensitive cameras and flashes were an attempt to raise revenue by increasing ticketing. The safety effects required study, though it was assumed that preventing red light runners would also prevent accidents.
New research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates there is a significant drop in accidents with the help of red light cameras. The biggest improvement was for the drivers who run red lights more than a second after the light is red. This is when they are most likely to cause a car accident.
The study focused mainly on the community of Arlington, Virg., when four cameras were installed in various intersections. Residents were warned of the impending camera usage for thirty days before the cameras were activated. At that point, the researchers began observing red light runs and accident rates.
All four intersections were highly traveled and risky for car accidents. The rate for crashes caused by red light runners was reduced by 24 percent. The overall rate of crashes at the intersection was reduced by 17 percent. Then the researchers looked for a spillover effect in the surrounding community. The accident rates were also lowered at those locations.
The rate of accidents decreasing at other locations wasn’t actually significant enough to say that a camera on one intersection was effective for the whole area. Researchers did find that the longer the light was red, the less likely a driver was to run the light.
Regardless of the results at intersections without cameras, the efficacy of cameras can’t be ignored. Though cameras are expensive to install initially, they would be invaluable for their safety applications. They are especially effective because they greatly diminish the number of late red light runs when it is more likely to hit another car or pedestrian.
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