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Dangerous Effects: Do Red Light Cameras Cause Traffic Accidents?

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red light camera traffic monitor photo

Are these cameras doing more harm than good?
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker

Red light cameras–also called speed cameras–are intended to improve safety on the road by monitoring and penalizing unsafe drivers…right?

Regardless of arguments that red light cameras are actually revenue-generating machines or surveillance tools against innocent citizens, red light cameras still exist in many cities. Every day, they ticket numerous drivers who cross through intersections as traffic signals turn red. However, that’s not the only effect these cameras have.

According to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light cameras may actually reduce the likelihood of fatal accidents as a result of speeding by up to 19%.

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After the IIHS surveyed two years of data from a Maryland county which utilizes red light cameras. Researchers concluded that these cameras “reduced by 59% the likelihood of a driver exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph, compared with similar roads in two nearby Virginia counties that don’t have speed cameras.” Areas known for having speeding cameras in the county also saw a reduction of fatal accidents over the years.

However, this conflicts with other studies in the recent past which found that red light cameras actually increase rear-end accidents as drivers slam on their brakes while approaching monitored intersections. Skeptics have also pointed out how insurance companies, and thus the IIHS, are benefiting from the use of red light cameras.

Overall, most drivers still disapprove of the use of red light cameras, reeling from the intrusion of privacy and the number of tickets given for turning right on red.

The debate will continue to roll through courts across the nation as citizens and government officials argue whether the benefits of the cameras outweigh the consequences.

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News Sources: Daily Signal

  • PhotoRadarscam

    insurance industry has a lot to gain from the proliferation of
    speed cameras. In states such as Arizona and California, photo
    tickets carry license points that increase insurance premiums.
    That is good news for the companies that fund the Insurance
    Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

    study seems to have several unusual qualifiers which usually
    indicates a high level of spin and dishonesty and doesn’t appear
    to be very rigorous. For example, the locations referred to in the
    study are not roads that used speed cameras, but “camera-eligible
    roads.” The IIHS researchers adjusted the data to specifically
    exclude consideration of certain types of accidents, such as the
    rear end accidents that happen when a driver slams on the brakes
    to avoid a speed camera ticket.

    A closer study of the data in the report actually shows no
    difference between roads with cameras and those without. They
    really took a leap to make the claims they are making.

  • Shane House

    I doubt that the cameras cause accidents. When the cameras were put up here the timing of the yellow light was altered to stay yellow for a shorter time period. This alteration makes more revenue but also puts unknowing drivers at a safety risk. If you see the light turn yellow then you have two choices either slam on the brakes and risk being hit in the rear or hit the gas and hope that you make it before you get a ticket.