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Red-Light Cameras Not Shown to Decrease Kansas City Car Accidents

It would seem to make sense to think that red-light cameras would cause more drivers to stop at intersections, and thereby decrease accidents. However, a police analysis of Kansas City’s red-light monitoring found just the opposite. Despite almost 200,000 tickets being issued since January 2009, accidents at most of these monitored intersections have not been reduced and have actually increased.

The data revealed that Kansas City motor vehicle accidents were up at 11 of the 17 intersections monitored by cameras. On average, wrecks increased by 18 percent. Accidents causing injury, rear-end collisions and overall auto accidents all rose. The only type of accident to decrease was right-angle crashes, which is the type most frequently caused by running red-lights.

The rise in auto accidents at camera-monitored intersections is particularly surprising considering that overall both city and statewide accidents decreased over 2009 and 2010.

Kansas City, however, is not alone in its experience with red-light cameras. A professor who researched the effectiveness of Chicago’s red-light camera program found the devices offered “no significant benefit.”

Violations have decreased, indicating that less people are running red lights. This decrease in red-light runners just has not translated to fewer accidents. The $100 tickets issued for red-light violations also could generate up to $20 million in revenue.

A spokesperson from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stated that the data does not fully take into account the “spillover effect” which occurs when driver behavior improves overall because motorists aren’t sure which intersections are being monitored.

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Officials with the city are currently discussing whether the program should be expanded.

Source: The Kansas City Star, Study suggests red-light cameras don’t add to safety, Christine Vendel, 23 January 2012