In a new study that is certain to heat up the debate over red-light cameras, a traffic safety group says that the controversial devices saved 159 lives in 14 cities during a five-year period, reports USA Today. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says red-light cameras reduced the rate of fatal red-light running by 24% from 2004 to 2008. Had the cameras been installed in all U.S. cities with populations above 200,000, 815 deaths would have been prevented, says the Insurance Institute, a group funded by auto insurers that aims to reduce injuries and damage on the nation’s roads.
“The cities that have the courage to use red-light cameras despite the political backlash are saving lives,” IIHS President Adrian Lund says. The research was immediately challenged by camera opponents. The National Motorists Association, a drivers’ rights group, says cameras have increased crashes in some areas and that other strategies, such as lengthening the duration of yellow lights, are more effective in making intersections safer. And Greg Mauz, a researcher for the Best Highway Safety Practices Institute, which studies traffic-safety laws, says, “The whole idea that cameras can prevent fatalities and crashes is total nonsense.”