Are there More Car Accidents Because of Red Light Cameras?


11 Alive News completed an analysis of car accident data from red light camera monitored intersections across the area and came to the conclusion that having the cameras increases the number of crashes. If true, that fact would require the permit for the cameras to be yanked. In my opinion, this is a knee jerk reaction to the data.

It is a painful fact that people in this state run very stale red lights and regularly drive 10-15 mph over the speed limit. As with any emerging technology, it takes getting 4 or 5 of these tickets for the perpetual offenders to change their behavior.

11 Alive’s irresponsible reporter shows a crash and declares “clearly this red light camera did not act as a deterrent.” The filmed crash is showing a driving who ignores or never notices the light at all. The camera simply captures the recklessness; it has nothing to do with causing it. This is the classic misunderstanding or correlation vs. causation. The camera saw the event, but did not cause the event.

Turning to the other allegations in the story regarding cameras causing an increase in the number of crashes at the intersection, time will tell. I do believe that there are more rear end collisions as drivers who were formerly decisive about running red lights change their minds while driving and suddenly stop when they see a stale yellow. Those collision though are easily avoided by careful drivers to the rear of the leading car. If the light is yellow and you are following someone who has yet to cross into the intersection, you should be prepared to come to a stop. Don’t complain that you were hoping the guy in front would run the light.

Notice that the report does not say what the size of the increase was. If the six months before the camera install were in the summer during a drought and the six months afterwords were in the winter or during a rainy period, those variables are far more important that the existence of the camera.

Claiming there was a 47% and 67% increase in crashes is totally irresponsible. 47% is the number of intersections where there was a least one more crash in the post 6 month period than in the previous six month period. I suspect that the failure to tell us what percentage increase there was at each intersection means it was insignificant. Numbers can be heavily manipulated.

Then consider the examples they discuss. Some bonehead sticks it in reverse and backs into someone. That is just driver stupidity, it has nothing to do with the camera.

The data may be out there but given that these cameras have been in for three years, I propose they analyze the data for 3 years prior versus three years after. A larger sampling makes for better data. For comparison, read the 6 year study conducted by the Washington Post that concluded there was no net effect either way of the cameras but offenders were ticketed which produced $32 Million in revenue for the city. I have no beef with Atlanta getting increased revenue from people who run red lights.

Don’t complain about getting caught by a camera for running a light. It is dangerous and can kill. Slow down. Are you really that important that the world cannot live without you showing up 2 minutes later.

My final argument for the use of traffic cameras is to be rid of wasteful lawsuits involving swearing contests between vehicle operators. If we had crash video, there would be no need to fight in court over who was responsible. The correct insurer would pay every time without the innocent driver being dragged through years of litigation. Then again, that’s just my opinion.

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One response to “Are there More Car Accidents Because of Red Light Cameras?”

  1. Mike Davis says:

    Realize ONE thing. These cameras are installed by camera companies to make money. They could care less about safety. They view the pictures and videos. They decide who gets fine letters. What is their accountability to the local governments? It’s an honesty system and with the government, how far is that going to go. No doubt, both the camera company and the government will make money, but where it goes, and how much, is anyone’s guess. Chalk up one more for the bad guys!!

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