Red Light Cameras and Safety

An article posted on New Jersey Real-Time News explores traffic accidents that occur at intersections with red light cameras.  The article looks at a recent report by the New Jersey Department of Transportation that that keeps track of accidents, costs, and citations that take place at intersections with red light cameras.

A New Jersey Red Light Camera(Photo From NJ.com)

A New Jersey Red Light Camera
(Photo From NJ.com)

The newspaper article reports that since the introduction of the cameras, total accidents have increased from 577 to 582. Furthermore, same direction or rear-end collisions at the intersections increased 20%, from 286 rear-end collisions the year prior to the cameras to 343 rear-end collisions the year after the cameras.

However, the article doesn’t mention non-rear-end types of collisions.  The NJ DOT report shows that right angle collisions decreased 19% (from 231 to 188), and other types of collisions decreased 15% (from 60 to 51).  This is important to note, because non-rear-end accidents are more likely to cause injuries.

Secondly, most of the locations with red-light cameras have only been in place for one year or less.  At the two intersections with two years worth of data, there has been a greater decline in crashes of all types when comparing pre-installation conditions to the second year of experience.

A Graph from the NJ DOT Report. The number of citations decrease over time.

A Graph from the NJ DOT Report. The number of citations decrease over time.

Also, red-light camera citations declined after an initial rise – year two violations were lower than year one violations, this indicates that there is a driver education element associated with the cameras.  As drivers become more accustomed to the cameras they learn that a yellow light means caution, not speed up, and the number of collisions will decline even further.

Finally, the total number of accidents at red light camera intersections increased at a lower rate than at intersections without the cameras (0.8% compared to 1.3%).  This suggests that in terms of total accidents, the intersections with cameras are slightly safer.

Since the five-year program is only in its 2nd year, more data needs to be collected before determining the effectiveness of red light cameras and the NJ DOT report posits that it is too early to draw any significant conclusions.  Of course the increase in rear-end collisions need to be addressed in order to make all intersections safer, but there is not enough evidence to recommend ending the red-light camera program early.

Want to know more?

The NJ DOT Report: Report on Red-Light Traffic Control Signal Monitoring Systems

The NJ Real-Time News article: Accident Rate Rises at Intersections with Red-Light Cameras

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