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RightNation.US: Red-light cameras don't reduce traffic accidents or improve public safety: analysis - RightNation.US

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"The accident occurred when a yellow-light accelerator met a green-light anticipator." –- Police accident report (probably metaphorical)

Red-light cameras don't reduce traffic accidents or improve public safety: analysis
July 19, 2018, Case Western Reserve University
© Phys.org 2003 - 2018, Science X network

Source; excerpts follow:

Quote

Red-light cameras don't reduce the number of traffic accidents or injuries at intersections where the devices are installed, according a new analysis by Case Western Reserve University.

Touted by supporters as a way increase public safety by ticketing drivers who continue through red lights, the cameras actually shift traffic patterns: More drivers tend to brake harder and more abruptly, increasing fender-benders and other so-called "non-angle" collisions.

"Once drivers knew about the cameras, they appeared to accept a higher accident risk from slamming on their brakes at yellow lights to avoid an expensive traffic citation—thereby decreasing safety for themselves and other drivers," said Justin Gallagher, an assistant professor of economics at Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve.

Gallagher is co-author of a paper posted to Social Science Research Network, commonly known as SSRN, based on an analysis of thousands of collisions over a 12-year span reported by the Texas Department of Transportation. Researchers focused on data while red-light cameras were operating and again after they were removed (by voter referendum) in Houston—and drew on similar data from Dallas, which still has its red-light camera program…

Continue reading

The article goes on to quote the co-author, cite some findings, and provide some general information. This paragraph made me stop and think:

Quote

While removing the cameras in Houston caused 26 percent more "angle" accidents—such as T-bone collisions, considered among the most dangerous—it's likely the cameras actually led to more accidents overall, since there are more non-angle accidents, researchers concluded.

Are they just counting the number of accidents? Installing the cameras increased "rear-ender bender" accidents by 18%, and removing the cameras caused more dangerous accidents to increase 26%. Yet, the researchers seem to be recommending removal; do they prefer more injurious accidents?!

I'm ambivalent about red-light cameras; even before they withstood legal challenges, I had already become a less aggressive driver who did not view a yellow-about-to-turn-red light as a "challenge". If you don't get in the car "in a hurry", then this shouldn't be an issue. Plus, as an advocate of drivers paying attention, and keeping a safe following distance, I don't have much sympathy for those who crash into the vehicle in front of them. I have concern: "Is anyone injured?" but it's still totally their fault, and avoidable. (Just as it was totally my fault when I did it.)

Modern cars are rather good at preventing or minimizing injury in that type of "non-angular" accident: Seat belts, air bags, and "crumple zones" dramatically reduce the severity of the impact for occupants. On the other hand, "vehicle crossing" (T-bone) and other "angular" accidents result in impact forces that are much harder to mitigate, and therefore tend to cause more injuries.

If a municipality chooses to use these cameras, the bonus is recording those dangerous driver actions which are more likely to cause serious injuries and deaths. A correlation with more minor accidents should not dissuade them.

Some may argue "invasion of privacy"; I think that's not persuasive because one must earn the privilege of operating motor vehicles on public byways, must share the roads with others, and the state has a compelling interest in preventing automotive anarchy. They already have your license and registration information on file; and being ticketed by a law enforcement officer (as opposed to a red-light camera citation) also becomes part of the public record.

Some may argue "Big Brother" overreach and a slippery slope to constant surveillance; it's a little farfetched but it's a valid constitutional concern. The ACLU inter alia has long opposed the use of these cameras (and has taken some heat for it); yet I appreciate their work in helping/persuading municipalities to "tailor" their focus, enforcement, and recordkeeping.

Final quote:

Quote

Data on the types of injuries incurring in these traffic accidents (fatalities, incapacitating and non-incapacitating, and more minor) failed to provide a case the cameras increased the safety of intersections where they're installed, [co-author Justin] Gallagher said.

Considering the general tenor of the research (especially as presented here), and Gallagher's public statements thereupon, I'm not sure I want to take his word on this. If I had a choice, I'd prefer a non-angular rear-end collision to a T-bone any day of the week.
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2 Comments On This Entry

A 2018 report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) - whose main interest is presumably to reduce 'costs' for it's member insurance companies - cites a 7-city study that showed a 15% incease in (less severe) rear-enders and a 25% decrease in (more severe) T-Bones and overall:

"Results showed a positive aggregate economic benefit of more than $18.5 million in the seven communities. The authors concluded that the economic costs from the increase in rear-end crashes were more than offset by the economic benefits from the decrease in right-angle crashes targeted by red light cameras."

http://www.iihs.org/...t-running/qanda

My gut feeling is that red-light cameras will help at some intersections more than others; Some intersections just seem to seem to be "problem" intersections for whatever reasons.

Where I would ESPECIALLY applaud the use of red-light cameras, ESPECIALLY in the Atlanta area, is to crack down on not necessarily the "yellow light accelerators" but the "yellow light creepers"; those who, at a slow-moving intersection, creep through on the yellow anyway KNOWING FULL WELL that they're going to sit there "blocking the box" under the red light. As far as I'm concerned, the proper instrument for dealing with those drivers is not just a red-light camera but also a D-9 Caterpillar.
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Oh, yeah; that. Drivers who enter intersections when they cannot possibly clear them are not only breaking the law, and are not only inconsiderate, they’re just not paying attention. I want to better understand the “move forward at any cost” drive that seems to affect so many. They follow too closely, irrationally blow their horns at routine traffic conditions, won’t let anyone merge, and “fill the box” that’s supposed to kept clear. My best guess is they think that being just a few feet closer to their destination is somehow “progress”, even as they make the situation worse for everyone and themselves.
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