Is Big Brother causing accidents with those traffic light cameras? We've got quite a few of these in the Windy City and in some of the suburbs. A couple of days ago, on my way home from the office, I hit the brakes a bit hard when the traffic signal just ahead of me turned yellow. I wasn't speeding, but I knew the intersection had a camera. I had the thought, briefly, that I could have been rear-ended if an aggressive or distracted driver had been behind me.
This report in Scientific American online suggests that my concern may have been warranted.
Cameras that catch drivers who blow through red lights are there to improve safety, by discouraging light running. But such cameras actually increase the likelihood of car crashes. Because more drivers jam on the breaks in an attempt to make a late stop at red-light camera intersections. That’s the finding of a study done by researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
They decided to look into the issue because Florida officials are considering installing many more such cameras around the state. The researchers contend that other studies associating cameras with fewer crashes and injuries are flawed—those studies were linked with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry group. But insurers may profit from red light cameras, because revenues go up with increased citations and accidents.
The new report notes that North Carolina, Virginia and Ontario all had increased crash rates and injuries associated with red light cameras. In Florida, injuries related to red light running are down anyway. So drivers needing to make a quick decision at a yellow light may be better off not seeing red.
Obviously, this problem doesn't apply to speed cameras that photograph speeders. I'm not sure we have those here, except in some construction zones on the state tollways.
Like parking tickets, the administrative tickets are issued to the owner of the vehicle and aren't applied to your driving record, but you do get clipped for $90.00. When you receive one of these tickets, you can view at a series of photos that document your violation online, so you can pretty much know if you've got a case. You can request a telephone hearing if you want a live human being to reject of your protest. All of this is to say, I will probably continue to brake hard when the light turns yellow.