Do Red-Light Cameras Work?

A Red Light Camera in Philadelphia
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Many cities in the United States use automated red light enforcement cameras.  The theory behind it is quite simple – since traffic police cannot be at all intersections at once, set up cameras at particular intersections to photograph drivers who drive through intersections without stopping at red lights, then mail those drivers traffic tickets.

About ten percent of all intersection fatalities in the United States are the result of running red lights, so it is important for cities to use all methods possible to increase traffic safety.

Although this practice is widely used, there is some controversy surrounding whether or not red light cameras actually increase safety, so much controversy that some cities have actually turned off their cameras.

Recent research in Virginia investigates whether or not cameras at intersections actually benefit traffic safety.  The study examined eight intersections – four intersections where red light cameras were turned off for ten months and four intersections without any red light cameras.  At each intersection, researches recorded whether the last car to enter the intersection did so on a green, yellow, or red light.

The results showed that when the red light cameras were turned off, 12% of the last cars to enter the intersection did so by running the red light, but when the cameras were on, only 3% did. This suggests that drivers are less willing to run a red light if they know they will receive a ticket, which in turn means that red light cameras reduce unsafe driving behavior.

Like many US cities, Philadelphia uses red light cameras among many tools to promote safe driving habits.  It’s important that all drivers, transit users, bicyclists, and pedestrians follow the traffic laws in order to make transportation in the city efficient, convenient, and safe (and to avoid getting a ticket!).

Find out more:

The Atlantic Cities Article

Read The Full Study


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