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Study Shows Problems with Red Light Cameras

Posted on in Traffic Offenses

Crystal Lake traffic defense attorney, rear-end collisions, red light cameras, traffic defense, traffic law enforcement, Illinois traffic lawFew traffic law enforcement methods have generated as much controversy in recent years as the red light camera program that started in Chicago and expanded to the rest of the state. Proponents of the program tout the increased safety benefits from fewer people running red lights, while the system's opponents say that it is nothing more than a shameless cash grab on behalf of the government. In an attempt to settle this debate, the Chicago Tribune recently commissioned a study of the red light camera's effect on traffic accidents.

The results have caused a bit of a stir, but failed to provide any clear conclusions. The Tribune reported that the cameras did more harm than good as far as accidents. However, people on the other side have also raised valid issues with the Tribune study's methods.

The Study's Results

The Tribune commissioned the study in response to the city's reporting that the red light cameras had decreased the number of accidents overall. The study's authors acknowledge that accidents have in fact decreased overall since the cameras were installed, but that that decrease has happened all over, regardless of the placement of cameras. The Tribune's study accounted for that general trend of decreasing traffic accidents and painted a more nuanced picture.

The new study showed that red light cameras did in fact deter “right angle crashes,” the sort of crash that happens when a person runs a red light and another driver runs into the side of their car. However, the cameras also increased the number of rear-end collisions, likely as a result of people stopping quickly to avoid a red light ticket. The Tribune reported that overall the number of crashes that involved an injury increased as a result of the red light cameras. While that may be true, camera supporters point out that this does not tell the whole story.

The Study's Controversy

Supporters of red light cameras say that the Tribune's report glosses over an important piece of information; right angle crashes tend to result in more serious injuries than rear-end collisions. This means that even if the roads saw an increase in the overall number of injuries from accidents, those injuries were less severe. That makes the trade-offs involved in the installation of red light cameras much more complex.

This response from red light camera proponents also has limitations of its own. One of the key problems the Tribune identified with the red light cameras is that they were often installed at intersections with low accident rates. While there may be a legitimate discussion to be had about trading right angle collisions for rear-end collisions at dangerous intersections, it makes less sense to increase the number of rear-end collisions at intersections that started off being safe.

Red light cameras are just one of the many traffic law enforcement methods available. If you have recently been accused of a traffic violation, contact a Crystal Lake traffic defense attorney to learn more about your rights.

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