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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Bob, 6 Jan 2005 @ 5:40am

    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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisment

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.