Can Red Light Traffic Cameras Improve Road Safety?
Maybe you’ve spotted one at a busy intersection you have to drive through to get to work. Maybe you’ve even fallen victim to its all-seeing eye, getting mailed a ticket for being a little cavalier with that last yellow light. However you look at it, one thing is clear: these days, increasing numbers of traffic cameras are being installed on red lights in cities all throughout the country.
The intention behind them is simple: by providing more active oversight of intersections with traffic signals or stop signs, these safety cameras aim to entice drivers to drive more carefully and obey the traffic lights more closely by making the signals more enforceable.
After being programmed to track the cycle of the lights as they switch, these cameras respond to any driver who disobeys traffic signals by taking a photograph of their license plate and issuing a traffic citation via mail to the registered owner of this car. In a perfect world, this would solve a number of problems related to traffic enforcement: it would reduce the need for traffic cops to position themselves at certain intersections to free up manpower for other policing duties, and ideally the cameras themselves would encourage safer driving through ever-present enforcement and monitoring of certain intersections, even if the idea is a little “Big Brother” for some.
However, studies have begun to show that the effect may not be working as intended. A number of studies over the last two years have tracked the overall number of traffic incidents such as collisions and cars speeding through red lights, and they’ve started to show quite the opposite: in many cases, traffic cameras increase the number of accidents.
A study performed by Case Western Reserve University showed that in the Houston-Dallas area of Texas, the installation of traffic cameras actually increased non-angle traffic collisions by 18%, accompanied by a shocking 26% increase in “angle” accidents such as T-bone collisions, which are typically considered the most dangerous type of accident due to the direction of travel and angle between the vehicles involved.
With this information in mind, researchers have begun to speculate that the accidents may be increasing in number, ironically enough, because of the cameras themselves. Due to the increased pressure to adhere to traffic signals like stop signs and yellow lights, the safety cameras may be ‘inspiring’ drivers to slam on the brakes much later than would be safe, causing more collisions between vehicles in and around these areas.
Between these findings and the frequent disputes surrounding the legalities of the tickets and infractions being issued by traffic safety cameras, it’s clear that the jury is still out on if traffic cameras are improving the quality of life for drivers everywhere.
In the meantime, if you have been injured in an auto accident by someone disobeying traffic signals, don’t hesitate to contact a car accident lawyer to find out what your options may be.