December 21, 2014
Red Light Cameras Cause More Rear-End Injuries, Study Claims

Red light cameras were considered an effective tool in fighting speeders, but new research commissioned by the Chicago Tribune appears to blow that idea out of the water.

The report found that Chicago's red light camera program was not safer. In fact, it actually caused more rear-end accidents than before it was implemented.

Ars Technica reports that rear-end crashes resulting in injuries actually went up 22 percent under the program.

Megan Geuss of the news site explains that the red light cameras program has been embattled in controversy from the beginning, that it's overseers have been accused of mismanagement, and that it has placed the government of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a "$2 billion bribery scandal."

To combat some of these accusations, Geuss notes, city administrators revealed that the program had resulted in a 47 percent reduction of right angle ("T-bone") crashes.

This prompted the Tribune to action.

The study by "two well-regarded transportation researchers" found the feel-good statistics to be "misleading." The study authors discovered "a statistically significant, but still smaller, reduction in angle and turning injury crashes by 15 percent," but that was offset by "a statistically significant increase of 22 percent in rear-end injury collisions."

There was a "non-significant increase of 5 percent in the total number of injury crashes" from before the cameras were present.

"When intersections experiencing fewer than 4 injury crashes per year are considered, there is a significant increase in all crashes by 19 percent after the installation of RLCs," the report claimed.

Since 2002, the red light cameras program has raised $500 million off the sum total of $100 tickets. In July, the Tribune noted that more than 13,000 drivers had been "ticketed erroneously" through the city's program.

Thor Benson of UPI adds that "red light cameras cause cars to enter intersections after a red light less often, but drivers are more likely to slam on their brakes to avoid entering the intersection, which can cause an accident."

Not the best of track records, yet Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former official in the Obama administration, would like to expand the program from the 350 cameras strewn about Chicago intersections to a camera at every light.

Critics point out that if the program is corrupt in its current form, it would be difficult to guard against further corruption in the event of expansion.

But what do you think, readers? Are red light cameras ultimately a good thing for public safety, or do they have unintended consequences that should make city governments rethink implementing them?

[Image via ShutterStock]