Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents (and here is why…)

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Since the District of Columbia installed its first red light camera in 1999, The Washington Post has championed use of photo enforcement technology on both its editorial and news pages. Now, five years into the program, the District’s largest newspaper has discovered that accidents are up significantly as a result of their use.

A comparison of accidents at camera intersections before and after they were installed produced the following results:

Accident Type 1998 2004 Change
Broadside 81 106 +30%
Fatal/Injury 144 262 +81%
Overall 365 755 +107%

The accident doubling effect is not a statistical anomaly, happening in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. In 2003 accidents did increase, but by less than 200 percent.

Camera proponents often argue that the devices create a “halo effect” that spreads improved driving habits throughout the city, including intersections where red light cameras are not installed. In the District, accidents increased citywide by 61 percent. Camera-free intersections experienced an additional 64 percent in accidents overall, a 54 percent increase in fatal and serious injury accidents and a 17 percent rise in t-bone collisions.

In total, the city’s photo enforcement program has issued two million red light and speed camera tickets worth $151 million.

DC police have never studied the accident data and do not dispute the Post’s findings.

View other studies that conclude red light cameras tend to increase accidents.

Key Statistic:
The analysis shows that the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled, from 365 collisions in 1998 to 755 last year. Injury and fatal crashes climbed 81 percent, from 144 such wrecks to 262. Broadside crashes, also known as right-angle or T-bone collisions, rose 30 percent, from 81 to 106 during that time frame.

Article Excerpt:

Douglas Noble, the chief traffic engineer for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said his office was examining crash data and plans to review the red-light camera locations. The department collects the data from police reports and advises police about where to install the devices. Noble said that no studies have been conducted on the District’s red-light cameras in several years but that he “would not disagree” with The Post’s analysis. “I don’t necessarily have an explanation” for the trends, he said.

Source: D.C. Red-Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents (© 2005 The Washington Post Company, 10/4/2005)

Rep. Dick Armey’s take on the subject from 2001