Red-light cameras are designed to take a picture of a car’s license plate if the driver runs a red light. These cameras are popping up in city after city as officials theorize that if drivers know they’re being watched, they’ll be less likely to run the lights. But do they work? Or is it just another way to increase city revenue from traffic tickets.
Well, according to study after study, rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and therefore, raise insurance premiums. In fact, the only studies that have shown any benefit to red-light cameras were either done by the IIHS…the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or researchers funded by them. How very strange, don’t you think?
The most recent study revealing the truth about the cameras was done by researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
“The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don’t work,” said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health. “Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections.”
Comprehensive studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have all reported cameras are associated with increases in crashes. The study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were linked to increased crash costs. The only studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained “major research design flaws,” such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were always conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras since insurance companies can profit from red-light cameras by way of higher premiums due to increased crashes and citations.
Apparently, the findings have been known for some time. A 2001 paper by the Office of the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives reported that red-light cameras are “a hidden tax levied on motorists.” The report came to the same conclusions that all of the other valid studies have, that red-light cameras are associated with increased crashes and that the timings at yellow lights are often set too short to increase tickets for red-light running. That’s right, the state actually tampers with the yellow light settings to make them shorter, and more likely to turn red as you’re driving through them.
In fact, six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the yellow light cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. Those local governments have completely ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.
The cities in question include Union City, CA, Dallas and Lubbock, TX, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, and Springfield, MO, according to Motorists.org, which collected information from reports from around the country. This isn’t the first time traffic cameras have been questioned as to their effectiveness in preventing accidents. In one case, the local government was forced to issue refunds by more than $1 million to motorists who were issued tickets for running red lights.
Great example of our government at work.
Heres the high brow economists bit:
Under our current democratic government, good laws (laws that benefit everyone) are a “public good” (their “producers” don’t receive enough of their value to make it worth the effort) and thus are under-provided; while bad laws (laws that benefit special interests at the expense of everyone else) are a “private good” (their “producers” receive most of their value) and thus over-provided. Just something to think about.