A study in the US has found red light cameras increase the frequency of rear-end collisions and generate revenue - and not much else…
The study was commissioned and published by the Chicago Tribune, in a city possessing one of the highest counts of red light cameras in the US.
Collisions which result in injury were a focus of the study, which concluded that the cameras may cause more road trauma than they prevent.
While the cameras were shown to decrease ‘T-bone’ side collisions at intersections by 15 percent, the benefit was more than overwhelmed by a 22 percent increase in rear-end, nose-to-tail collisions that resulted in injury.
The findings are a far cry from ‘City Hall’s’ claim that the cameras reduce side collisions by 47 percent, and is a bad look - to say the least - for a city caught up in a US$2 million bribery scandal involving camera operator Redflex.
The 47 percent figure was calculated on a ‘before and after’ basis over a period from 2005 to 2012, but was criticised for including data from intersections that had cameras installed before 2005.
Cameras were also found to be installed at intersections with a low crash rate resulting in injury, and therefore offered virtually no safety benefits.
In fact, some intersections experienced more collisions following the installation of red light cameras, but the collision rate was still too low to attribute blame to the devices.
The study was headed by Associate Professor Dominique Lord from Texas A&M University, who said the camera program “seems to have had little effect”.
"So the question now is: If we eliminate a certain type of collision and increase the other and overall it stays the same, is there an argument that it is fair to go with the program?" Professor Lord said.
"That is a question that I cannot answer - just the elected officials can answer for that."
Outside factors were also considered in the study, including a reduction in the amount of time an amber light was displayed and new state laws lifting the minimum damage value from US$500 to US$1500 before a collision needs to be reported to police.
Transportation Committee Councillor, Anthony Beale, said Chicago officials were manipulating the road safety figures.
"Those numbers the city uses have never made any sense - of course they are skewing the numbers," Mr Beale said.
“That program needs to be stopped. It needs to be frozen to give us time to re-evaluate everything. This is just more proof that this entire program is strictly to generate revenue and always has been."
Chicago’s red light camera program governs 350 of the city’s intersections and has generated US$500 million in revenue (at $100 per ticket) since 2002.
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