Do Red Light Cameras Help?

from the not-so-easy... dept

We’ve had a number of stories about problems with speed cameras, but similar problems apply to red light cameras as well. Of course, the biggest question is whether or not these cameras help make the roads safer. The problem is that the incentive of those installing the cameras is often to maximize revenue. Thus, they choose locations that are high traffic — but not necessarily dangerous. In some cases, such as in San Diego, it turned out that officials reduced the length of the yellow light on traffic lights where speed cameras were positioned, in order to create more violations. While studies have shown that locations that have red light cameras do reduce side impact accidents, they increase rear impact accidents, because people slam on the brakes to avoid getting caught by the camera. The net effect, however, is in dispute. Some say that the reduction in side impact crashes outweighs slower rear impact crashes — which may be true. Of course, if officials really want to stop side impact crashes from people running red lights, it seems there’s a much simpler and more effective solution. Some locations do this, but I’ve never understood why it’s not more popular: have a period of time when lights in both directions are red. That is, when the lights for one roadway turns red, don’t immediately turn the cross traffic lights green. Give it a second, allowing the stragglers to get through, and then let the other traffic go. Of course, if this were all about safety that’s what would happen — and it’s pretty clear that safety is coming second to revenue in many of these cases.

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Comments on “Do Red Light Cameras Help?”

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Bob says:

Adaptive behavior

I believe that studies have shown that if you “forgive” people who run red lights, either by lengthening the yellow or providing a all-ways-red period, they just extend their behavior – that is, they continue to run the light. This is particularly noticable with an all-ways-red situation: since they know that the cross traffic won’t get an immediate green, it’s perceived to be “safe” to run the red.
My city (and others in the area) have now wired all major intersections to provide a supplemental light tied to the red signals – so a policeman who can’t see the signal itself can readily tell when it’s red, and thus has the information needed to make traffic stops. Unfortunately, they’re also starting to look at cameras, but based on driver behavior around here, I’m inclined to think the good outweighs the bad.

Bob Dole says:


The problem with many of the “studies” — like the one claiming drivers exploit longer yellows — is that they’re done by the Insurance Industry (IIHS) which makes millions from cameras. Points on licenses (California, Arizona, Europe) = rate hike = profit.

Likewise, the cities that commission studies that find magic decreases in angle collisions often exploit intersections where other engineering improvements were made. E.g., at a few intersections in San Diego they lengthened, not shortened, the yellow. Guess what? Huge benefits there. And, no, the benefits never went away.

jim says:

Cities with red light cameras == revenue stream

Until cities are forced to enforce laws for the sake of safety, and not for the sake of making money (parking is an even bigger source of legal thievery) this will only get worse. The way that the red light camera and such devices are sold on the basis of making money for the city is only slightly worse than acts like the ADA which left enforcement totally up to lawsuits and lawyers.

ONly ones who made out there were the lawyers and the builders who have covered the countryside with sidewalks and cute wheelchair ramps and have fulfilled a lot of local politicians dreams of breaking up concrete and pouring concrete.

Nicole says:

Re: Red Light Cameras

Sorry – I’m a bit late into this discussion, but where do you all get off, by blaming the cities’ and their idea of gaining revenue?

Have you ever thought that maybe the DRIVER’s are to blame for those rear-end accidents? Isn’t it the driver’s responsibility to follow at a safe distance, so that if need be, they can stop without hitting the car in front of them?

Check out the data from North Carolina – one of the states with the most red light cameras.

” The results showed right-angle accidents were reduced by 42 percent at red-light camera intersections, with a 25 percent reduction in rear-end accidents Total red-light related accidents dropped by 22 percent.”

Maybe we need to follow the direction of North Carolina & put in MORE red-light cameras.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Red Light Cameras

Listen you commie b!tch this isn’t about safety for any of these cameras, it’s about revenue. They don’t care if we hit each other or not. These cameras are licensed by private corporations like lockheed martin that have no right to get involved in routine traffic violations. It’s completely unconstitutional, this is not Nazi Germany. It’s pretty obvious who you actually work for & represent tho, which I would say is likely the state of NC or possibly even a larger government body. Keep your socialist ideals to yourself, this is a free republic. DOWN WITH RED LIGHT CAMERAS!!

David Cross says:

I was sent a citation after slowing down at a traffic light long enough to make sure no traffic was coming, I then turned right and had my pic taken. There was no sign up stating no turning on red. Now I have to go to court to plead my case….. I’m sure there will be a lot more of these in the future.

David Cross

Knoxville Tennessee

Steve A. says:

Re: Knoxville red light cams

I have received two of these “camera” volitions in Knoxville in the past year or so, and have had conversations with the Knoxville city traffic court Judge about the red light cameras. He has indicated that he would throw out most, (if not all) contested (meaning you have to show up to court) red light volitions in his court.
He also stated some concerns about a private company receiving revenue from these cameras, while using public assets (Local law enforcement, and courts) to collect the monies.
There is (or was) a law suit challenging the authority of this company, (based in Ohio I think) to decide the guilt of those getting the tickets.
I received one ticket in the mail about a light on Clinton Highway, and at the same time received another (separate) letter stating that the light had fouled up, and that I did not have to pay the fine.
I received a second ticket from a light on Ashville highway, and ended up paying it, because I could not get off from work that day to contest it.
The first light, turned yellow as I was approaching it, but immediately flipped red less than a second later.
The second ticket on Ashville highway only gave me 3-4 seconds warning between the yellow and the red light on a highway with a posted speed limit of 55 MPH, not nearly enough time to stop, although I tried my best to do so.
It’s a good thing that there were no vehicles immediately behind me either time, or I would have been rear-end as I tried to stop for these lights, not because I was doing anything wrong, but because the cameras were fouled up.
When I was in court, I pointed out to the Judge that there were red light cameras on Lovell road, and that they were falsely recording red light volitions there also. Because there are two large truck stops on Lovell, the cameras were recording violations of cars going thru the red lights while following large trucks with their trailers. The problem was not that people were “sneaking” thru the lights behind the trucks, but that a driver in a car could not see the traffic light when he is behind a large trailer, until after the light has turned red. The cameras did not delineate the difference between the two, and many drivers paid for violations that they were not guilty of. Since then, one of the cameras has been taken down, and I think the other one has been disabled. These lights were installed all over the city along with the Mayor’s statement that not only would the lights pay for themselves, but would actually generate revenue as well.
I, for one, am less than impressed, either with his motives, or the results.

What is needed here is not an “increase in awareness that the cameras are there”, but better planed intersection/traffic light combinations that allow the greatest opportunity to obey the laws, not break the laws.
(p.s. we need to remove the greed factor as well, private companies should not ever, under any circumstances ever, NEVER ! profit from unlawful activity, even when someone else is breaking the law)

Harry Douglas (user link) says:

Red Light Cameras in Knoxville

On my radio talk show, Car Concerns, which is broadcast in two Tennesse cities that have these Red Light Cameras the motorist are plenty upset. Knoxville and Nashville use the Red Light Cameras to ticket motorist who run Red Lights.

The debate is Hot & Heavy and I invite you to tune in. On my Sunday Car Concerns you can catch the show via Internet Stream @ staring at 10:00 AM (CST) on Sunday.

Crystal says:

stop or go

I had a near accident experience earlier today and I thought sharing it might show a very powerful side to the possible pros traffic light cameras. On 12/29/06 I purchased a new vehicle. Today someone almost totaled it because they ran a red light, blatantly.

Had there actually been a traffic light camera on that intersection, I could at least go home with a bit of peace of mind that they were going to get punished.

In my successful attempt to avoid impact, I almost got rear-ended.

Sure, once these traffic light cameras first get installed there are going to be people that remember at the last second that there is a camera on the intersection, therefore slam on their brakes and get hit. There are still two people at fault there. Because of the lack of familiarity with the cameras their judgment is delayed. I bet if you look at the statistics in the long run you’ll find that both accident incidents decrease the longer the cameras are installed. Do you not have the same knee jerk reaction when you see a cop at the intersection?

What needs to happen is an increase in awareness that the cameras are there. That way traffic in general will begin to abide.

jordinyc says:

Of course it's about the money

Reminds me of when I got fined $500 for putting up flyers around New York City. Just plain xerox tear-offs offering my services as a tech support geek.

Governments are like drug stores. They’ll sell anything that makes you think they’re helping you but really they’re just trying to make a buck. That’s not to say there aren’t decent drug stores, but it’s still business.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Don't have to worry about that here in Adelaide

There are no police on the streets except the RDTs and mobile speed cameras, and most traffic lights are largely fitted with cameras so it is safest to assume that even if there is no signb up, tere is a cmaera.

What I would like to see is a modification to the system so taht if there are very few cars around (based on the vehichle sensors at lights), they swithc to flashing amber (indicating give way) on the side road and green on the main, so that the junction beocmes uncontrolled at night, when there is little traffic about. The other improvement would be the introduction of Red-Amber, where for a couple of seconds, the lights display both red and amber, indicating that the lights are about to vchange but you may not take off yet. THis means that on junctions with complex light sequences you do not sit aroung waiting for the drivers in front to realise that the lights have changed. THis system is used in the UK, but not in Maryland or in South Australia.

Arnold says:

Red Light Class Action

My lawyer has filed a class action suit against Nestor whose contract violates the CVC; we’re trying to add class members to our suit who have received a red light traffic citation anywhere in the USA. The case is so strong that the lawyer is taking it on a contingency basis and will cost class members nothing. Let me know if you want to join, Arnold (

Wayne M. Peavey says:

red-light cameras

Please note that even armpits such as Tifton, GA now use these revenue generators. The citation states that no points will be assessed on licenses, no notification will be made to ins companies, & no notification to the State of GA. This then is a TAX. Vehicles such as motorcycles (tag too small for camera to read) 18 wheelers with tag mounted underneath the bed on the nerfing bar, & farm machinery (no tag) are immune. Seems to me that if the locals are sincere about safety, all of the fines should be remitted to the State of GA.
Remember, Big Brother is watching you with his hand out.

TSnow27604 says:

Wow, Jason must really enjoy running red lights. I live in NC and I’m all for it. I think that the people who make and maintain these cameras should of course make some money but I hope most of it goes to the local government. I would rather penalize people who break the law and drive dangerously (either on purpose or negligently) than raise taxes on everyone to pay for much needed infrastructure upgrades and repairs. And heck, maybe we can save some lives too.

Alpan says:

Re: red light cameras

I hope three things happen to you: First I hope you get a $50 summons in the mail for running a YELLOW LIGHT like I did – as clearly shown in the photos I received. Next I hope your appeal is denied by a kangaroo court and crooked judge. Finally, when you get back on the road and reach the same intersection, I hope you try to stop for the YELLOW light and get rear-ended by an asshole with no insurance. It all happened to me. Both cars were totaled. I was taken to the hospital. BTW, I hope it all happens with your kids in the back seat. Have a nice day!

Bill says:

A law should be fullproof,this one isn't even close...

For you people that think every idea the government has “for our safety”. Please open your eyes just a little. We laready have police officers doing their job. And if they catch you going through a red light. Then you get a TICKET. The key word is YOU. There are plenty of people out there that drive other people vehicles. ex: Mechanics,family,friends,and even if your vehicle happens to get stolen. Now, YOU have to take a day off of work to prove YOU were not the person driving. And then if you get a judge that doesn’t care what you have to say. You not only get hit with the ticket. But, lucky you get to pay court costs,and parking at City Hall. So, if you don’t mind having to possibly deal with that scenerio. And basically give up a weeks pay. And not be able to make your car payment or buy groceries for the week. Maybe you wouldn’t be so darn naive.

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