Studies: Cameras increase rear-end collisions
By Mark J. Armstrong
The Daily Times
Published April 12, 2007
While city officials continue investigating the possible installation of traffic signal cameras to catch red light violators, some reports indicate it may not be good for drivers.
A 2006 study of a red light camera system installed in Winnipeg, Canada, two years earlier found a 58 percent increase in wrecks at the intersections where the system was used and a 64 percent increase in injuries. A 2005 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council showed similar results after traffic cameras were installed with an 8 to 17 percent increase in wrecks.
Both studies found a decrease in the number of people running red lights at those intersections where the cameras were installed and fewer wrecks at those intersections caused by people running red lights. However, the reports found more incidents of rear-end collisions resulting from people slamming on breaks to avoid running the light.
Kerrville doctor Randy Moody said he was disappointed to see the police department considering the use of traffic signal cameras. The cameras do little to improve public safety, he said, but are very profitable for the companies that provide them.
“I think that the people of Kerrville should hear both sides of this topic,” Moody said. “After all, who wouldn’t be for decreasing accidents and catching red light runners on the surface?”
No decision has been made about installing the cameras in Kerrville. Police Chief John Young said the department still is gathering data from vendors, and it would be mid- to late-summer before he would bring a recommendation back to the city council.
“I would not see those being installed probably before the end of this fiscal year,” Young said.
Young said he is not familiar with the Winnipeg or Virginia studies, but that other Texas cities with traffic cameras also have reported an increase in rear-end wrecks.
“That is something that is typical, but even in a front-to-rear accident, the extent of the injury and damage is not as much,” Young said.
Several other studies including a 2005 Federal Highway Administration report found similar results. The Federal safety report on red light cameras found a 24.6 percent decrease in the number of side impact collisions and a 15.7 percent decease in injuries from side impact crashes, along with a 14.9 percent increase in rear-end wrecks and a 23 percent increase in injuries from those wrecks.
Young said that information is being considered in the police department’s final recommendation. He also suggested that people will need to be more vigilant at intersections if and when traffic signal cameras are installed to avoid rear-end collisions.
“A lot of times, people think the person in front of them is going to run the yellow light, and he doesn’t,” Young said.
The criminal fine for running a red light is $129. However, traffic signal cameras are used to issue civil fines, and the amount of the fine would be set by the city council.
Between 2004 and 2006, the Kerrville Police Department issued 302 citations for running red lights. Running a red light also was listed as the cause of 128 wrecks, which resulted in 49 injuries during those years.
According to the Winnipeg report, during the first two years cameras were in place at 12 intersections, the machines issued 317,385 tickets and generated $15 million in revenue. This allowed the police service in 2004 to cut 46 human police officers from the traffic unit, according to the report.
In Kerrville, Young has recommended that cameras be used at two or three intersections only. He also suggested that the city contract with a vendor to pay a set amount per intersection to avoid any perception that the city is “out to make money.”