Red-Light Cameras Do Not Reduce Right-Angle Crashes

By Jim Baxter, Founder of the National Motorists Association

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared in 2008 but is still quite relevant today. Since then, Case Western University researchers in 2017 found that RLCs do not make intersections safer and, when finally turned off due to community pressure, the intersection is actually safer than before.

It seems that the most implausible myths are the hardest ones to kill off.

Other than within the institutional capital of the Flat Earth Society, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it is generally accepted that red-light ticket cameras increase rear-end collisions, often dramatically. However, the supposed off-setting rationale for still using ticket cameras is to reduce right-angle or T-bone collisions. This has been said so often and so persistently that it’s accepted as fact.

It’s not fact, and it never was.

An early comprehensive study of red light ticket camera programs, including a review of the supposed “research” supporting these programs, was done by the University of North Carolina A&T, which found no evidence that red light cameras reduced right-angle or T-bone crashes. No credible study that followed the North Carolina effort has contradicted this finding.

This inconvenient fact is obviously not included in the ticket camera press kits handed out to local officials and the media.

Serious crashes at controlled intersections can be attributed to a handful of causes, none of which involve entering the intersection a half-second too late after a too-short yellow light has turned to red.

Police pursuits, emergency vehicles entering on red, drug and alcohol impairment, obscured or confusing traffic lights, and distraction are the principal elements that cause these more serious accidents, usually long after the light has changed from yellow to red.

The presence of ticket cameras has no remedial effect on these more serious intersection crashes.

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