Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, suggests our critique of red light camera studies is flawed and that the IIHS camera study is valid when concluding cameras reduce crashes communitywide. While he questions our research integrity, facts allow for concluding Lund is incorrect, as explained below.
- Our analysis reviewed four of seven red light camera studies that were identified as the best research by a 2007 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compendium. We also reviewed a fifth study, which was the IIHS study of camera use in Oxnard, Calif., even though it was not identified as one of the best research studies.
- Among these five studies, three adhered to scientific research methods and found cameras are associated withincreases in crashes and injuries. Red light cameras are hazardous because they alter driving behavior in ways that are known to increases crashes, e.g., abrupt stops.
- The remaining two studies (one was the IIHS study) violated sound research methods, yet the studies continue to be referenced by camera proponents. Lund failed to mention that we replicated the IIHS study and our criticisms are now published in the same journal (American Journal of Public Health) online under the title “Analysis Violates Principles of Sound Research and Public Health Evaluation.”
It appears the IIHS study attempted to attribute the pre-existing time trend of declining red light running crashes to camera use. In their study, the intersection approaches with cameras represented only 2 percent of all approaches in Oxnard listed as “camera” approaches, and the remaining 98 percent of “camera” approaches in their study were signalized approaches that did not have a camera. This hides any increase in crashes at actual camera intersections.
Lund failed to mention that there was no significant decrease in total crashes, despite the methods used. Instead, the findings were incorrectly reported in their publication, creating the appearance of a significant decrease in total crashes when no such decrease occurred, as evidenced in our replication.
Contrary to Lund’s opinion, our research is independent as it is not funded by any outside agency or special interest. Our critique differentiated valid camera research from invalid research, something the general public does have the ability to do. In contrast, the IIHS is funded by auto insurance companies.
Barbara Langland Orban, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Health Policy and Management, USF College of Public Health, Tampa
Orginally appeared here: http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/letters/monday-letters-red-light-cameras-are-a-hazard/1095104