Red Light Cameras - A Love Hate Relationship

The Roswell Neighbor had an article today that caught my attention.  If you are familiar with NUR, you know that I firmly believe that roads should be designed for more safety.  That usually means narrower lanes, fewer straightaways and more intersections.  That doesn't make for what most consider a driver's paradise but it does make for a safer environment with fewer severe injury and fatality crashes.  I actually think the latter is a driver's paradise.  An environment that gets Americans home to their families a higher percentage of the time is what we should all want.

The article in The Roswell Neigbor by Joan Durbin, City May Ditch All Red Light Cameras, is bound to get people excited.  It certainly got a couple of commenters excited.  But, after I read the article, it left me disappointed in our city council, mayor and DOT for (in my opinion) not lookng at the big picture. 

The article leads one to believe that the city is strongly considering removing the cameras based on data from the two intersections over the 25 months preceeding camera installation and the 22 months following their installation.  In a nutshel, there have been three crashes related directly to red light runners pre-installation and three crashes post-installation.  In addition to this, the revenue generated from citations issued has declined significantly.

At first glance, you simply say, there has been no improvement in safety.  Then you may say, revenues have declined significantly and are just barely turining a profit.  You may then reach the conclusion as our mayor and council did, that givien that there is no improvement in safety and revenue isn't paying for the cameras, you should just remove the cameras.

NOT SO FAST!

We should expect more from our mayor, council and DOT.  How quickly do we forget...  This is from a 2010 article from NorthFulton.com titled Red Light Cameras Doing Job in Alpharetta, Roswell:
Roswell reported head-on collisions at Holcomb Bridge dropping drastically between last year and this year (even though at Mansell Road, such collisions went from none to one over the same period)
My take..  The city Making conclusions from data collected from two cameras within a mile of eachother to determine that they have no impact on safety is like looking at an overweight person eating a salad and determining that salads make you fat.  You have to look at a broader populstion.  The statistics are out there and they aren't debatable.  Traffic Cameras SAVE LIVES.  
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released their findings from a study on the subject last year (link).  They looked at 14 cities that installed cameras in the mid-00's. 
Researchers concluded that the rate of fatal red-light running crashes in cities with the cameras was 24 percent lower than it would have been without them. The study compared crash data collected in 2004 to 2008 with the period between 1992 and 1996 — before the 14 cities had any cameras.
Based on their calculations:
"if red light cameras had been in place for all 5 years in all 99 US cities with populations over 200,000, a total of 815 deaths could have been avoided."  

I'm not a fan of having cameras everywhere and those flashes are freaking annoying (there have to be better systems) but I am a fan of people not dying and getting maimed in car crashes.

Red light cameras are a tool in the city's arsenal that should be used at high velocity intersections (40 mph+) where right angle crashes due to red light runners have a high probability of killing or seriously injuring drivers.  Cameras coupled with smart road design (narrower lanes, fewer straight aways) can seriously reduce serious injury crashes.  Why? Because they force drivers to PAY ATTENTION.

As far as revenue is concerned, it makes total sense that revenue would be decreasing.  The article states that revenue dropped from $835k in 2008 to just over $100k in 2010.  That's not a sign that the cameras aren't worth the investment.  It's a sign that they are doing their job. Drivers are PAYING MORE ATTENTION at the intersections.  They are running the light fewer times.  

A small sample of intersections may not have shown a reduction in accidents but it has most definitely shown a reduction in people running red lights which is the actual key driver behind accidents at intersections.  Don't look at the accidents, look at what causes the accidents.  Then make your decision on whether they are helping make our city safer.