While the use of Los Angeles red light cameras is very popular amongst government officials, the general public clearly opposes them. Many groups believe that the use of red light cameras violates citizens’ privacy rights and that the use of these cameras is not reducing Los Angeles car accidents but is instead increasing them. In many locales, the cameras are not set up to identify the vehicle driver, raising owner liability issues. If I had my way, every Los Angeles red light camera would be destroyed, but the question “do red light cameras save lives” fuels my obligation to investigate.
Los Angeles City Audit
According to a new audit by the Los Angeles city controller, red-light cameras haven’t improved public safety at key intersections across the city. Not only are the cameras not being used at Los Angeles dangerous intersections, but they have cost the city more than $2.5 million over the last two years and failed to adequately demonstrate an improvement in safety, according to the audit released by City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Gruel’s office noted in an advisory that the program was supposed to reduce accidents at the highest-risk intersections, but auditors found that some of the most accident-prone corners were passed over — partly for political reasons, such as ensuring that at least one camera system was placed in each of the fifteen City Council districts, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Findings such as these are no longer a shock to the rest of the country. Other studies have come to similar conclusions, which are painting a disturbing picture
Burkey-Obeng Red Light Camera Study
Researchers at the North Carolina Urban Transit Institute conducted a U.S. Department of Transportation funded study that looked at a 57-month period and accounted for dozens of variables such as weather and traffic.
“The results do not support the conventional wisdom expressed in recent literature and popular press that red light cameras reduce accidents. Our findings are more pessimistic, finding no change in angle accidents and large increases in rear-end crashes and many other types of crashes relative to other intersections. We did find a decrease in accidents involving a vehicle turning left and a vehicle on the same roadway, which may have been included as an angle accident in some other studies. However, given that these left turn accidents occur only a third as often as angle accidents, and the fact that we find no benefit from decreasing severity of accidents, suggests that there has been no demonstrable benefit from the RLC program in terms of safety. In many ways, the evidence points toward the installation of RLCs as a detriment to safety.”
This study clearly states that red light cameras are increasing Los Angeles car accidents and car accidents across the country. Even with this evidence we are still supposed to believe that these red light cameras are for our own good. The running of red lights causes about 800 wrongful deaths per year, and about half of the people who are killed aren’t the signal violators. They’re pedestrians and people in vehicles that are struck by motorist committing the violations. Another 165,000 people are estimated to be injured in red-light running crashes each year.
Red Light Camera Alternatives
Studies show that increasing the length of a yellow light leads to a substantial decrease in citations at that intersections. Eric Skrum, Communications Director for the National Motorists Association said, “Records from Fairfax County show that increasing the time of yellow lights significantly decreases the number of red light violations. The Virginia Department of Transportation increased the yellow time on the traffic lights at US50 and Fair Ridge drive by 1.50 seconds on March 26, 2001. This increase in yellow time from 4.00 seconds to 5.50 seconds resulted in a 94 percent drop in citations, less than one per day, at this red light camera enforced area.”
If it were decided to increase the time of yellow lights at all Los Angeles intersections that are currently using red light cameras, there should be a decrease in car accidents and citations. Unfortunately, Los Angeles red light cameras are a cash cow, a wave of revenue that our city and state members are not going to let go without a fight. The evidence outlining the overpowering danger of red light cameras is becoming clearer while its mirage of effectiveness is starting to dissipate. Will states move forward with this new evidence? Or will our recession continue to prioritize profits over safety?
Help for Victims of Catastrophic Injury
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