Red-light cameras do not reduce traffic accidents or enhance safety, according to a study by Cleveland-based Case Western Reserve University. Rather, they can lead to even more accidents.
“We believe that cameras encourage people to take steps, including slamming on the [brakes], to avoid tickets even when there is a significant risk of an accident by doing so,” one of the researchers, Paul Fisher, told Watchdog.org. “This effect appears to be larger than any benefits from reduced accidents caused by red light running.”
Red-light cameras are designed to take pictures of cars that enter an intersection during a red light. Generally, drivers allegedly guilty of running the light will receive a fine in the mail.
Critics say red-light cameras are nothing but money grabs by government bodies such as municipalities. Proponents say they improve safety.
In Houston, the camera installations led to an 18 percent increase in non-angle accidents, such as crashing into the back of a car. In Houston and Dallas combined, the cameras led to a 28 percent jump in these types of accidents, according to the study.
When the cameras were removed in Houston, there was a 26 percent increase in angled accidents, such as T-bones. The camera installations likely led to more overall accidents because there are more non-angle accidents, the analysis of the study claims.
“While this is a single study, we believe in general that cities should at the very least reconsider existing red light camera programs and should not begin new programs,” Fisher said. “As further research confirms these findings, we would wholeheartedly recommend the removal of red light cameras.”
The state of Ohio has been feuding with cities in recent years over the installation of red-light cameras. Ohio state law financially punishes any municipality that earns revenue from red-light cameras. To disincentivize the cameras, municipalities must report all revenue gained from these cameras, then this number is subtracted from how much the municipality receives from the state government.
The City of Toledo has been in a legal fight with the state over its red light cameras. While the Ohio Supreme Court granted Toledo’s right to use such cameras, the city is still fighting against the law that financially punishes them. Toledo, which earns about $2 million annually from red-light cameras, claims this law is a usurpation of home-rule powers.
Ohio ACLU chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels told Watchdog.org that the ACLU’s main concern about these cameras is the lack of due process in some municipalities.
While some municipalities have a method for challenging these laws, such as appealing the ticket in a letter, others don’t have any readily available means to bring up a challenge, Daniels said. In municipalities that do not have proper due process regarding tickets issued by red-light cameras, he suggested that revenue may be one of their main motives for these cameras.