By Angie Schmitt
Jul 25, 2018
Red light runners are killing more Americans as many cities wind down red light camera enforcement, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The IIHS reports that 811 people were killed in crashes caused by red light runners nationwide in 2016, an increase of 17 percent compared to the previous four-year average. The rise in red light-running fatalities coincides with a decline in the number of cities using camera enforcement to deter red-light running. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of red light cameras in operation fell 21 percent, according to IIHS.
While IIHS doesn’t attribute all of the additional loss of life to the reduction in cameras, their research shows it is a factor. A 2016 IIHS study found that the fatal red-light running crash rate in cities that shut off their cameras increased 30 percent relative to similar cities that had not. In cities that had eliminated camera enforcement, the overall fatal crash rate at signalized intersections was 16 percent higher than in cities where the programs were maintained.
Cities are more vulnerable to political backlash against camera enforcement when the programs are poorly managed, which lends credence to accusations that the programs are about revenue, not safety. To be effective and politically sustainable, the programs have to be structured to maximize public safety and eliminate incentives for contractors to game the system.