A Ban I Actually Support
That would be a ban on red light cameras, which was recently proposed in the Missouri Senate. Although I am not a fan of most rules, I have no problem with the fair enforcement of effective traffic laws. The problem is that red light cameras are not effective in preventing accidents — quite the opposite — and only serve as revenue streams for the cities that install them.
A 2008 study published in the Florida Public Health Review surveyed the literature on red light cameras and found that they actually increased the number of accidents at red light intersections. Here are some of the study’s key findings:
• Comprehensive studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have all reported cameras are significantly associated with increases in crashes, as well as crashes involving injuries. The study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were linked to increased crash costs.
• Some studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained major “research design flaws,” such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras. Insurers can profit from red-light cameras, since their revenues will increase when higher premiums are charged due to the crash and citation increase, the researchers say.
Langland-Orban said the findings have been known for some time. She cites a 2001 paper by the Office of the Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives, reporting that red-light cameras are “a hidden tax levied on motorists.” The report concluded cameras are associated with increased crashes, the timings at yellow lights are often set too short to increase tickets for red-light running, and most research concluding cameras are effective was conducted by one researcher from the IIHS. Since then, studies independent of the automobile insurance industry continue to find cameras are associated with large increases in crashes.
In the two years since the study was published, there have been numerous reports of cities shortening the length of yellow lights at intersections, which leads to even more accidents, purely in the name of generating more revenue from tickets. If the evidence showed that red light cameras made the roads safer, I would not complain, but they simply encourage cash-strapped city governments to deliberately make them less safe, so they can rake in some much-needed revenue. That’s an unacceptable set of incentives, and Missouri should put a stop to it.
Full disclosure: I did just get a ticket from the city of Saint Louis for running a red light equipped with a camera. I didn’t actually run the light, but a rolling right turn is apparently also illegal.