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Red light cameras have solid support

September 1, 2012
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

Last week's article discussed some of the relatively easy ways that we can reduce vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries. One of the methods presented was the use of automated enforcement, or more specifically, the use of cameras to catch violators of speeding and red light running. Where used, this technology is preventing crashes and is saving lives, according to studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

From Wikipedia, a red light camera is a traffic enforcement camera that captures an image of a vehicle which has entered an intersection against a red traffic light. By automatically photographing vehicles that run red lights, the camera produces evidence that assists authorities in their enforcement of traffic laws. Generally the camera is triggered when a vehicle enters the intersection after the traffic light has turned red.

Typically, a law enforcement official will review the photographic evidence and determine whether a violation occurred. A citation is then usually mailed to the owner of the vehicle found to be in violation of the law. These cameras are used worldwide, including the United States. In New York state, they are authorized in cities of over one million persons, and the person responsible is the registered owner of the vehicle.

A study by the IIHS finds strong public support for camera use to counter the dangerous practice of red light running. According to this survey, two-thirds of drivers in 14 big cities with longstanding red light camera programs support their use. The findings follow an Institute study demonstrating that cameras have reduced the rate of fatal red light running crashes by 24 percent in these same cities.

More than 9 of 10 drivers surveyed in the 14 cities believe running a red light is unacceptable, and more than 8 of 10 deem it a serious threat to personal safety. Two-thirds favor red light cameras and 42 percent strongly favor them.

Previous surveys have also found widespread support for red light cameras, according to the IIHS, but opponents continue to claim that the programs violate privacy and are used by cities merely to generate revenue. The contention that cameras are about money, not safety, was mentioned by 26 percent. Other reasons given for opposing the cameras are that they violate privacy issues and that they make the highways less safe. Some even said they oppose cameras because they can make mistakes.

Speed cameras are widely used in Europe but not in the US. Where they are used, significant reductions in crashes, deaths, and injuries resulted. Institute studies in Maryland and Arizona found that the proportion of drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph fell by 70 percent and 90 percent respectively, very significant statistics by any measure. Perhaps more should be done using speed cameras for enforcement.

The bottom line is that camera enforcement is proven to be an excellent method to reduce crashes, enhance safety, and best of all, is widely acceptable by the public.


For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board's website at and click on "Traffic Safety Board" under departments then look for Did You Know articles under "services."



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