05 February 2013

Running Lights

Red light cameras are supposed to enhance traffic safety.  Red light runners cause a lot of accidents and injuries, and if we can decrease this scofflawry, we'll save lives and property.
The theory that handing out redlight camera tickets will decrease red light running and actual accidents and injuries, bears closer inspection.  The evidence suggests that the stop line cameras do no such thing, They may cut down on light runners, but the accidents actually increase.

Let's reason together as to why this might be so.  There are two kinds of drivers who run lights:  the kind who does it purposely, and the kind who does it accidentally. 

I would suggest that the person who runs lights on purpose is actually less likely to be involved in an accident.  He is merely in a hurry, or chooses not to sit out the light wasting time and gas.  If he enters the intersection against the light, he is going to be hyper-vigilant and he will be looking for cross traffic and especially for police cruisers.  I know this because I've done it.

The other kind of driver who runs lights is of two sub-types.  

One sub-type is the driver who has a split second to decide and chooses poorly and ends up entering the intersection a tenth of a second after the light turns red.  This kind of violator almost-never causes an accident, but ends up paying the bulk of the robo-tickets. 

Often this same driver, instead of rolling through, slams on the brakes and doesn't breech the sanctity of the crossroads.  He uses that split second to choose wisely... or does he?  This law-abider (or ticket eschewer) may just cause one of the increasing number of rear-end collisions at camera intersections. 
That's right.  Did you know that rear-end collisions increase at light-controlled intersections when red light cameras are installed there?  Did you know that there are studies--lots and lots of studies--out there that have found an increase of accidents and injuries where the photo pick-pockets are placed?  How do these studies square with all the concern public officials supposedly have for our safety?

Go here to view a summary of   Red Light Camera Studies  This is provided by The Newspaper, a wonderful source of motoring news.  You'll find a link for it on the left margin of my blog.

The second subtype is the unaware doofus driver who enters the intersection a second-and-a-quarter or more after the signal change.  This is the driver who either T-bones or is T-boned.   And like the steak, is rare. 

This driver is going to run a red light and maybe injure someone no matter what.  The traffic lights could be twice as big and twice as bright and this person will still not notice them.  He may not be unaware all the time--just the once--but there are enough one-timers to supply all the mayhem. 

My point is that red light cameras do not decrease accidents because the above person, for whatever reason, is in a momentary stupor and is not going to be wised up by urgent signs, and bright colored warning lights, beforehand, and the unpleasant likelihood of fines, insurance rate hikes, legal stuff, inconvenience, destruction of property, and bodily injury, afterward. 

So the very driver causing all the damage is the one least likely to be deterred by the threat of a camera-generated ticket, or even the existence of a live cop in a patrol car lurking at the intersection.  If he is caught he might mend his ways, but how do you cure yourself of inattentiveness?  Maybe he'll resolve never to drink and drive, again, or not take cough medicine before driving, or talk to the passenger, or look in the back seat at a crying child, or tune the radio.  And maybe he'll never offend again.  But there are plenty of one-timers waiting to take his place.

City Hall is not blameless.  In fact, a lot of cities have been caught decreasing the yellow light interval at camera intersections, just so they can generate more light runners and more revenue.  They sacrifice safety for money. 

About the only thing proven to cut down on accidents and injuries is increasing the yellow light interval, and it doesn't cost $30,000 per pole to set up, just a traffic tech to reset the light timers.  Plus it isn't sucking millions of dollars out of the public pocket and transferring it to the courts and the police and city hall. 

Do our fearless leaders know this?  I think they do.  They just get hooked on the millions pouring into the city coffers, and choose theory over reality. 

The good news is that a lot of cities every day are getting out of the traffic camera money sucking business.   


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