Why not running red light running programs is costly in human lives

trafficredpersonRed light camera programs in 79 large U.S. cities saved nearly 1,300 lives through 2014, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have found. Shutting down such programs has cost lives, with the rate of fatal red-light-running crashes shooting up 30 percent in cities that have turned off cameras.

“Red light cameras are valuable enforcement tools that prevent many dangerous intersection crashes,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund, who will present the new research Thursday at a forum on red light cameras hosted by the Institute. “This study confirms that cameras reduce fatal crashes and for the first time quantifies the effect that ending these programs has on safety.”


Red-light-running crashes caused 709 deaths in 2014 and an estimated 126,000 injuries. Red light runners account for a minority of the people killed in such crashes. Most of those killed are occupants of other vehicles, passengers in the red-light-running vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists.

Automated enforcement deters red light runners. While traditional police enforcement can help, there aren’t enough resources to station officers at every intersection. Cameras increase the odds that violators will get caught, and well-publicized camera programs discourage would-be violators from taking those odds.

Previous research has shown that red light camera enforcement leads to declines in red-light-running violations and crashes at camera-equipped intersections, as well as nearby spillover locations.

Although surveys have found strong support for red light cameras in communities that have them, opposition from a vocal minority has led some jurisdictions to shut off their cameras. While programs are still being launched in some places, the total number of communities with red light cameras fell to 467 in 2015 from a peak of 533 in 2012.

A 2011 IIHS study found that in large cities with red light camera programs during 2004-08, there were substantial decreases in the per capita rates of both fatal red-light-running crashes and fatal crashes of all types at intersections with traffic signals.

The new study updates that analysis, using a more rigorous design, a larger number of cities and a longer study period. It also looks at the effect of ending camera programs, something not previously studied.

IIHS researchers looked at the 57 cities of 200,000 or more people that activated cameras between 1992 and 2014 and didn’t shut them off. They compared the trends in annual per capita fatal crash rates in those cities with the trends in 33 cities that never had cameras. After accounting for the effects of population density and unemployment rates, the researchers found there were 21 percent fewer fatal red-light-running crashes per capita in cities with cameras than would have occurred without cameras and 14 percent fewer fatal crashes of all types at signalized intersections.

As expected, the cameras have their biggest effect on red-light-running crashes. However, the analysis shows they reduce other types of fatal intersection crashes as well. Drivers may be more cautious in general when they know there are cameras around. In addition, red-light-running fatalities may be undercounted.

When applied to all 57 cities, as well as 22 cities that started and ended camera programs, the lower intersection crash rate translates into 1,296 lives saved during the years the cameras were operational.

The second part of the study looked at 14 cities that ended their camera programs between 2010 and 2014. The researchers compared trends in annual crash rates in those cities with trends in crash rates in 29 cities in the same regions that continued their camera programs. The fatal red-light-running crash rate was 30 percent higher in cities that turned off cameras than it would have been if the cameras remained on. The rate of fatal crashes at signalized intersections was 16 percent higher.

The 16 percent increase translates into an estimated 63 deaths that would have been prevented in the 14 cities if they had not turned off their cameras.

“Debates over automated enforcement often center on the hassle of getting a ticket and paying a fine,” Lund says. “It’s important to remember that there are hundreds of people walking around who wouldn’t be here if not for red light cameras. Sadly, there are 63 families who are missing a loved one because these life-saving programs were canceled.”

Thursday’s forum was organized to support red light camera programs by focusing on best practices. Representatives of law enforcement and municipal and state governments, as well as highway safety advocates and researchers, are expected to attend.

Court Confrims Red-Light Cameras Are Legal

American Traffic Solutions (ATS) welcomes the decision issued  by the Third District Court of Appeal in Jimenez v. State. In Jimenez, the court concluded that Red-Light Safety Camera programs are legal under Florida law.  In its ruling, the court added, “The officer’s review and determination in this regard are far from a mere rubber stamp.”

Jimenez comes after the court undertook a comprehensive review of ATS’s involvement in the Red-light Safety Camera process, including its role in pre-sorting camera information, printing and mailing notice of violations and citations on behalf of law enforcement, and transmitting violation information to the clerks of court.

Armed with the full set of facts concerning ATS’s role, the court concluded that none of the activities that ATS undertakes as part of its Red-light Safety Camera program involves the delegation of a police power. Aventura’s law enforcement retains the sole authority to determine who has violated the law and should be cited for it.  ATS merely provides ministerial services in carrying out law enforcement decisions.

Florida routinely finishes in the top three states for red-light running crash fatalities, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, a branch of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

1 thought on “Why not running red light running programs is costly in human lives”

  1. Don’t buy the IIHS “claim” yet. Here are two IIHS “reports” that were Debunked. (worse is the 2011 IIHS report that was BUSTED cherry picking data, had the same researcher in 2016 report, Wen Hu).

    Oxnard. “Actual red light accidents not studied in 2001 Oxnard report
    Incredibly, the 2001 IIHS Oxnard study did not actually study any accidents caused by red light running. “…the crash data did not contain sufficient detail to identify crashes that were specifically red light running events…” (2001 Oxnard report, page 1). Nor did it even study accidents at intersections that have red light cameras. Instead, the study’s author, Retting, merely looked at accident codes from a database over a 2 and a half-year period to claim that accidents throughout the Oxnard area dropped by about 30 percent as a result of the red light cameras. The connection between area accidents and red light cameras is only an implied connection. There is no scientific evidence in the report showing any demonstrable connection between the two. ”

    Than you have the 2011 report (that IIHS brings Up) that was exposed CHERRY PICKING TOWNS! “The critique noted the most troubling issue was the dissimilarity between the cities chosen to represent camera enforcement and the camera-free cities. Almost a quarter of the camera-free cities had between zero and two red light running fatalities in the “before” period. It is impossible for a city with zero fatalities “before” to improve in the “after” period. By contrast, nearly all the camera cities had 7 or more fatalities, leaving far more room for improvement.”

    “IIHS did not bother gathering data regarding any of the factors FHWA considered essential, aside from looking up 1990 and 2000 population figures. In fact, the insurance industry relied upon the eight-year gap between the “before” and “after” periods to obtain the desired result. In locations like Chandler, Arizona the community went through significant changes — including the building of the Loop 101 and Loop 202 freeways — during this time. These new routes drew traffic away from intersections during the “after” period despite the increase in population. Without accounting for the change in traffic volumes, the figures would be misleading. Chandler accounted for the greatest decrease in citywide accidents in the IIHS report. IIHS not knowing which locations in the city had cameras could not check whether there was a difference between camera and non-camera locations.

    A professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago did check and determined last year that there was no statistical difference before and after the cameras were installed in the Windy City. The data refuted the IIHS assumption that there is a so-called “spillover” or “halo” effect that spreads good driving habits throughout the photo-enforced jurisdiction. Between 2001 and 2008, use of cameras had no effect on the percentage of accidents that took place at intersections — the figure remained steady at about 25 percent (view report). IIHS claimed big accident reductions in Chicago and in Washington, DC. A 2005 investigation by The Washington Post found accidents doubled in the nation’s capital (view report). Likewise, despite IIHS claims, Baltimore, Maryland last month reported inconclusive results from its photo ticketing program.”

    IIHS “report” if it is like other ones is long on hype and most likely has flaws in it. It will be only time (unless IIHS refuses to release the data) before it is exposed.

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