Red Light Cameras Increase Accident Rates

We have known for a long time that red light cameras are not about safety, and we have heard from time to time that red light cameras increase accident rates. Below I discuss some studies that support the fact that red light cameras do not decrease accident rates, but instead increase accident rates.

Nattaporn Yaungyai published his Master’s Thesis, entitled Evaluation Update of Red Light Camera Programming in Fairfax County, Virginia, at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in April 2004. Yaungyai found:

  • There was no statistically significant reduction in accident rate at intersections after the installation of red light cameras; and
  • Lengthening the yellow light reduced red-light violations more than the installation of red light cameras.

In July 2004, Mark Burkey and Kofi Obeng, with the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, NCA, published a study entitled Detailed Investigation of Crash Risk Reduction Resulting from Red Light Cameras in Small Urban Areas. In their study, Burkey and Obeng found that:

  • Red light camera installation was correlated with a statistically significant 40% increase in accident rates compared to intersections without red light cameras;
  • There was a large increase in rear-end crash rates relative to intersections without red light cameras; and
  • Lengthening the yellow light time decreases accident rates.

In June 2007, a study entitled The Impact of Red Light Cameras (Photo-Red Enforcement) on Crashes in Virginia was published by Nicholas J. Garber et al. from the Virginia Transportation Research Council in Charlottesville, VA. This study found that:

  • Aggregate total accident rates increased 29% at intersections with red light cameras;
  • Aggregate rear-end crash rates increased 42% at intersections with red light cameras; and
  • There was no statistically significant  reduction in red light running crash rates at intersections with red light cameras.
The SOLE PURPOSE of red light cameras is to GENERATE MONEY.

The hard data says that red light cameras increase accident rates and do not reduce accidents, so the only other reason to install them is to generate revenue. There are two major red light camera providers: Reflex Traffic Systems (Redflex) and American Traffic Solutions (ATS). These private companies take home the bulk of the money collected from red light cameras. If you google the name of either of these companies along with “bribery” you will find many stories of these companies bribing government officials to install red light and photo radar systems. As an example of the money at stake, the revenue sharing formula used by Knoxville, TN, and Redflex in 2007 specified that if a red light camera generated less than $4,500 in a month,  Knoxville would get 15% of the revenue and Redflex 85% of the revenue for that month. If the red light camera generated more than $4,500 in a month, Redflex and Knoxville would split the revenue 50/50. In 2007, Knoxville collected $955,014 from red light cameras, and Redflex collected $1,644,719, all from 15 red light cameras. It’s a safe assumption this revenue splitting is in place across the country.

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