The Scoop on Red-light Cameras

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Tips

redlightcamera1You’re going to make a right-hand turn, slowing down enough to check for cars, but not quite stopping all the way, and then you see it, the bright flash behind you indicating that you will be receiving a ticket in the mail. That’s right, you didn’t come to a complete stop behind the white line so now you have to pay a fine around $100. Red-light cameras originated to decrease the occurrence of t-bone accidents due to people running red lights, but are they really working?

That depends on who you ask.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, red-light cameras have decreased t-bone accidents by 25%, which is great if that was the end of the story. But it isn’t. Think about it: if you know there is a red light camera at an intersection and the light turns yellow, what are you going to do? Of course, you are going to slam on your brakes. So would everyone else. The result? The amount of rear-end accidents has actually gone up by 15%.

So which one is worse?

Some will argue that red-light cameras should still be kept around because t-bone accidents result in greater injuries. Others say that rear-end accidents already occur more often, so why would the state want to instigate more of them? In Houston, voters actually passed a legislation to eliminate red-light cameras in November of 2010, so it is clear how they felt about it.

Is there more to the equation?

Many people argue that red-light cameras aren’t about safety at all, but they are strictly a means of revenue for the state. When the cameras were introduced, this was absolutely the case. However, all it takes is one time getting a ticket in the mail and you will never forget to stop behind the white line at that intersection again. Now that red-light cameras have been around for a while, less and less drivers are actually getting tickets. In fact, some cameras aren’t even making enough revenue to pay for themselves.

So do red-light cameras work?

If you are asking if they are reducing t-bone accidents, yes. Are they making the roads dramatically safer overall? No. Do they provide long-term substantial revenue for schools and healthcare? Probably not.

Is there a better way?

Yes. In fact, studies have shown that simply increasing the amount of time that the light stays yellow can decrease accidents caused by running red lights by about 80 percent. It may not make the state any money, but it sure will make the roads safer, which is the ultimate goal.

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