Some people consider red light-camera enforcement to be a “big brother” government tactic; others see a scheme to generate revenue for a given municipality. Regardless what the naysayers believe, red-light cameras are saving lives, according to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Some 159 lives have been saved in the 14 biggest U.S. cities from 2004 to 2008, the study says. Had the cameras been operating in all large metropolitan areas, 815 people could have been spared.
Forty-one percent of the 2.2 million crashes in 2009 occurred at an intersection, and running a red light was the most common type of crash in urban areas, resulting in 113,000 injuries and 676 deaths that year, the study says. The most common offenders in these types of accidents were males younger than 30 who have a prior accident record or a record of alcohol-impaired driving or speeding violations.
Since the common offender has been in trouble with the law before, being caught doing something else illegal is something that individual is likely to avoid. Cameras reduce such illegal behavior because of the increased certainty of apprehension, according to the study.
The study points to reduced red-light violations of up to 40% to 96% after the cameras were introduced. It also found an uptick in rear-end crashes, likely because of hard braking to avoid a ticket. IIHS says such increases are acceptable, considering rear-end accidents are less costly both to property and in lives lost.
To further promote safer streets, IIHS wants more red-light cameras to supplement traditional methods of enforcement or for intersections to be converted to roundabouts, which eliminate the need for traffic signals and the cameras altogether.
For more details, you can read the full study results here.