One of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents is when a vehicle runs a red light. Nationwide, these accidents often result in injury, death, and property damages, which can range in the millions. The purpose of this Leadership White Paper is to determine the effectiveness of red light camera systems on reducing motor vehicle accidents and enhancing public safety.
A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has shown that intersections monitored by red light cameras have a reduction in right angle traffic accidents (“Camera enforcement,” 2011). Reducing the number of traffic accidents at any given intersection has multiple effects, including enhanced public safety, officer safety, and public trust.
Law enforcement agencies across the nation are faced with staffing levels that are lower than desired. This lack of manpower often requires agencies to focus their attention on more pressing issues other than traffic enforcement. Intersections that are monitored by red light camera systems no longer need to be visually monitored by patrol officers or deputies. This, in turn, frees up the street patrol units to focus their attention on other public safety related matters.
City governments and county commissioners typically do not incur any of the operating cost of red light camera systems. These systems are installed and maintained by a private company who, in turn, receives a portion of the fines assessed by the local governments. These fines are a source of revenue for the local governments with little to no investment.
It is widely believed that red light camera systems are necessary to change driver behavior. This change in behavior is based on the belief that as the motorist approaches a monitored intersection, he or she will become more cognizant of the traffic signal and their distance from safely clearing the intersection. This change in driver behavior is believed to translate into a reduction in accidents. Achieving a higher percentage of safety among the nation’s drivers can be achieved through a combination of intelligent engineering, driver education, and traffic enforcement. The focus of this document will be on the traffic enforcement aspect of driver behavior.