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Red Light Cameras: Lifesaver or Flawed Solution? Should the CT Legislature Pass a Law Allowing For the Installation of Red Light Cameras?

Bridgeport, Norwalk, Danbury, Ridgefield, Stamford, Connecticut

Motor vehicles that ran red lights injured a total of 113,000 people in 2009. Of those injuries 676 were fatal.  Of these fatal accidents, 46% were occupants of the other vehicle, 12% were passengers in the vehicle running the red light, 6% were pedestrians or cyclists and 36% were the drivers of the vehicle running the red light.  In addition, 11% of people killed in red light running accidents were motorcyclists, 10% of those drivers were teenagers. 22% of drivers in fatal red light crashes were
unlicensed and 25% had blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08%.

This week, the Connecticut Legislature will consider a law regarding red light cameras. Basically, red light cameras are cameras that capture images of vehicles, including the license plate numbers, at intersections while the light in that direction is red. The result is that anybody who runs the light, makes an illegal right hand turn or performs some other traffic violation, will receive a ticket in the mail. The new law would not require towns to use red light cameras, but would give them the option to do so.

As is the case with most controversial issues, there is strong support and opposition as it relates to the installation of red light cameras.

One side of the debate claims police cannot be everywhere at once. Certainty of enforcement is the only thing the cameras truly provide. It is obvious to almost any driver that red light violations will decrease if the certainty of enforcement is higher. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) found that the occurrence of crashes, especially those that resulted in injury, dropped dramatically.  In Oxnard, CA, where cameras were installed in 1997, a 29% reduction in accidents has been documented, including a 68% reduction in front-to-side accidents that resulted in injury. This was with only 11 of 125 intersections being equipped with cameras.

In another study, the IIHS compared statistics from fourteen cities that did not have cameras between 1992 and 1996, and then did have them from 2004 through 2008. The IIHS found that the combined per capita rate of fatal red-light-crashes fell 35%. As fatal crash rates fell 14% across the board over that time period, the IIHS estimates that a 24% decrease in fatal red light crashes can be associated with installation of red light cameras. The IIHS estimates that this saved 159 lives between 2004 and 2008.

The other side of the argument cites studies that have contradictory findings. The National Motorist Association found that many cities of differing sizes across the country had increased accidents at red-light-camera intersections. In Los Angeles, 20 of 32 such intersections saw increased accident rates, some tripling their accident rate. In Washington, D.C. accidents increased 107%, in Portland, OR by 140%, in Philadelphia by 10 to 21%. Smaller towns also saw increases including 83% in Fort Collins, CO, 14 to 30% in Corpus Christi, TX and even as high as 800% increase in rear end collisions in Oceanside, CA.  Some cited statistics indicate the bulk of these accidents resulted in rear end collisions caused by a driver stopping suddenly to avoid going through a red light.

Currently, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon,Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington allow the use of roadway cameras. The IIHS claims that two-thirds of the 89% of drivers that are aware of red light cameras favor their use.

Where do you stand? Do you support red light cameras and if so where and under what circumstances?