Update On Traffic Cameras

In the comments to the previous post, we’ve heard from the sponsor of the bill that would bring red light cameras to Alabama.

This post will provide some more information on how these things work in practice.

Here’s the purported justification for the cameras:

City officials from Tuscaloosa, Mobile and Montgomery are joining forces to try again to get a law through the Legislature allowing them to put cameras on traffic lights.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox told the State Safety Coordinating Committee last week that there have been nine deaths in his city since 2000 that were caused by motorists running red lights.

He asked why he and other city officials have to tolerate deaths and injuries “when there is technology available to protect lives, and it’s stopped by the Legislature. All we want is the authority to save lives.”

Now a few more stories about what actually happens when these things are installed.

From the Washington Post:

The District’s red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer.

But a Washington Post analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices. . . .

The analysis shows that the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled, from 365 collisions in 1998 to 755 last year. Injury and fatal crashes climbed 81 percent, from 144 such wrecks to 262. Broadside crashes, also known as right-angle or T-bone collisions, rose 30 percent, from 81 to 106 during that time frame. Traffic specialists say broadside collisions are especially dangerous because the sides are the most vulnerable areas of cars.

In Canada:

the number of collisions increased 58 percent after cameras were introduced at the twelve intersections selected by Winnipeg. These extra accidents were not minor ones. Injuries increased 64 percent and property damage claims between 60 and 113 percent, with the largest claims increasing the most. These effects were specific to the camera intersections, as the number of accidents citywide increased only 7 percent during the same period.

A study by North Carolina A & T Univesity for the US DOT:

This paper analyzes the impact of red light cameras (RLCs) on crashes at signalized intersections. It examines total crashes and also breaks crashes into categories based on both severity (e.g., causing severe injuries or only property damage) and by type (e.g., angle, rear end). Prompted by criticism of the simplistic methods and small data sets used in many studies of red light cameras, we relate the occurrence of these crashes to the characteristics of signalized intersections, presence or absence of RLC, traffic, weather and other variables.

Using a large data set, including 26 months before the introduction of RLCs, we analyze reported accidents occurring near 303 intersections over a 57-month period, for a total of 17,271 observations. Employing maximum likelihood estimation of Poisson regression models, we find that: The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.

The cameras are associated not just with more accidents, but with more severe accidents. They do not make anyone safer. They do make a lot of money for the cities who use them and the manufacurers who make them. But if the goal is safety, they don’t do the job. 

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

4 Comments on “Update On Traffic Cameras”


  1. […] Traffic Light Cameras [I updated this post here]  […]

  2. publius Says:

    traffic cameras are racist. thats what alvin holmes says. they catch more blacks than whites. the eternal question begs to be answered; ‘ but how do it know?’

  3. James Richmond Says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    The comments about intersections with web cams and any corellation to the increase in traffic accidents where web cams are located is simply foolish. Web cams do not cause accidents just as guns do not kill people. Its people who cause accidents and perhaps you might consider the increase in the number of drivers on the roads now and especially the number of young inexperienced drivers and older not so attentive drivers who are on the roads. Traffic cams are good for security around Tuscaloosa and if they help collect revenue from speeding drivers, then its the drivers fault for getting the ticket, not the camera. Put the cameras back please and thankyou.

    James Richmond
    Northport.

  4. wheeler Says:

    james,

    thanks for that rambling and incoherent bit of idiocy.

    The comments about intersections with web cams and any corellation to the increase in traffic accidents where web cams are located is simply foolish.

    you want to explain why? like it or not, whenever these things go up, accidents increase. and as the studies explain, it is because of behavior caused by the cameras.

    Web cams do not cause accidents just as guns do not kill people. Its people who cause accidents.

    like i just said, the people are reacting to the cameras. no camera = no reaction = no accident.

    but let’s assume your reasoning is correct, i.e. that it’s true that people ALONE cause accidents. if that’s the case, then there is no reason to put the cameras up in the first place. after all, people cause accidents, so putting up a camera won’t stop them.

    you might consider the increase in the number of drivers on the roads now and especially the number of young inexperienced drivers and older not so attentive drivers who are on the roads.

    so you think we ought to ban them all from the road? what, exactly, does that have to do with whether cameras are a good idea?

    Traffic cams are good for security around Tuscaloosa

    what makes t-town different than every other city in the country that has used these things and ended up with more accidents?

    if they help collect revenue from speeding drivers, then its the drivers fault for getting the ticket, not the camera.

    assuming, of course, that the ticketed driver was actually driving the car and that the camera worked properly. the latter is especially dubious because all the economic incentives work against proper mainenance. the town and the light company split the revenue, so anything that increases revenue – e.g. a mistimed camera – benefits those two parties. so why would they spend any time at all making sure the things work properly?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: