January 7, 2009 | Mark Paradies

Red Light Cameras – Safety Enhancement or Hidden Tax?

Manylts2

Someone in our office got a red light camera ticket. In Knoxville it’s a $50 fine and no points (doesn’t go on your record). They remembered the yellow light was “kind of short.” And they could access a video of the “infraction.”

After watching the video about 4 times I noted:

1) It was a close call. The vehicle was right at the crosswalk when the light turned red.

2) The yellow was set at about 4 seconds (maybe slightly less – I didn’t have a stopwatch and the video didn’t have a time stamp).

3) The person’s break lights came on just as they entered the intersection (when they say they noticed the light changed to red.

That got me interested in yellow light times, standards for yellow light times, and intersection safety in general.

First, I came upon this discussion page on yellow light timing on the Federal Highway Administration web site:

http://knowledge.fhwa.dot.gov/cops/opspublic.nsf/discussionDisplay?Open&id=7CFB51E04C66D8668525705800461560&Group=Signs&tab=DISCUSSION

Then I came upon a study that suggests that red light camera’s don’t reduce accidents and refutes other studies that say that they do:

http://www.motorists.org/photoenforce/Burkey_Obeng_Updated_Report_2004.pdf

Then I found several interesting pages about red-light cameras:

http://www.motorists.org/blog/red-light-cameras-do-not-reduce-right-angle-crashes/

http://www.motorists.org/blog/6-cities-that-were-caught-shortening-yellow-light-times-for-profit/

http://www.motorists.org/blog/9-ways-improve-traffic-safety-government-will-ignore/

All this reading about improvement makes me think … Are they really addressing the ROOT CAUSES of people running red lights.

It seems to me that the T-bone accidents (high chance of a fatality) are the ones that we should be addressing.

Are these caused by “enforcement NI”?

Are people intentionally breaking the rules?

Or are they distracted, inattentive, blinded by bright lights, confused by background lights, …

It seems to me that an enforcement solution will only work if there is an enforcement NI root cause.

And if cities are shortening yellow lights to increase revenue … This is an obvious case of creating red light runners to enhance ticket revenue.

So be careful when creating corrective actions. Make sure that the corrective actions are effective (the E in SMARTER) in preventing the recurrence of the root cause. Otherwise you will be implementing corrective actions that may fit some agenda item, but won’t prevent the recurrence of the accident.

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