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Red Light Cameras Reduce Intersection Wrecks

Placing video cameras on stoplights cuts down on drivers running red lights by more than 80 percent, new research suggests. The result: fewer intersection crashes and auto accident deaths.

Those are the key findings from a just-released traffic safety study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

“This study provides fresh evidence that automated enforcement can get drivers to modify their behavior,” said Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS and the study’s lead author, in a news release.

Approximately 540 towns and cities nationwide have red light cameras. A growing string of studies have shown that the devices curb automobile accidents and improve road safety.

The most recent study involved filming traffic flow at four heavily-traveled intersections in Arlington, Virginia. One camera was installed at each intersection.

Motorists were given a 30-day warning period before enforcement began. Afterward, the county began issuing citations carrying $50 fines for violations caught on camera.

Following is from the IIHS news release:

To calculate how the cameras affected violation rates, researchers at the Institute, which is located in Arlington, videotaped traffic during the warning period, a month after ticketing began and again after a year. In addition to the four camera-enforced intersections, videotaping was done at four other intersections in Arlington — two on the same corridors where cameras were located and two elsewhere — to see if there was any spillover effect from the cameras.

Four control intersections in neighboring Fairfax County, which does not have a camera program, also were observed.
One year after the start of ticketing, the odds of a red light running violation at the camera locations went down. Violations occurring at least 0.5 seconds after the light turned red were 39 percent less likely than would have been expected without cameras. Violations occurring at least 1 second after were 48 percent less likely, and the odds of a violation occurring at least 1.5 seconds into the red phase fell 86 percent.

A 2011 IIHS study of large cities with longstanding red light cameras found that cameras reduced the fatal red light running crash rate by 24 percent and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 17 percent.

Close to 10,000 Americans died in 2003 after being involved in intersection-related accidents. One third of all traffic accidents take place at intersections, with almost 3 million intersection-related accidents occurring annually.

Risk factors at intersections include speeding up to make a green light, failure to yield the right of way, improper lane changes and sudden braking.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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