Red-Light Cameras Prevent And Cause Crashes


More than 100 U.S. cities use cameras to detect red-light violations. While Baltimore reports that violations for running red lights have gone down 60 percent at the 47 intersections with such cameras, reports the New York Times, studies in places like San Diego, Charlotte, N.C., and Australia showed that the reduction in side-angle collisions has been offset by an increase in rear-end accidents involving people stopping abruptly.

There also has been criticism of the cameras’ use to generate revenue from fines – in some cases exceeding $300 per violation, with points on a driver’s record – and of revenue-sharing arrangements with providers of the technology. Those arrangements, critics contend, have led to the placement of cameras not necessarily where they would best promote safety, but where they will rack up the most violations. Those questions, along with malfunctions and legal challenges, have led some local governments to remove the cameras. The Times says the “story of the red-light camera is one of technology, safety, politics, behavior modification – and unintended consequences.” The largest camera vendor, Affiliated Computer Services, has 55 clients in the United States and Canada. It provides camera systems and in some cases administers the processing of citations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which endorses the camera systems’ use, says 1,000 people are killed each year in red-light violations.


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