Inconclusive evidence exists to show red light cameras help reduce the number of motorists who run red lights at intersections, and that their installation leads to fewer car crashes at these intersections. Despite uncertainty of the results, that the Mayor and City Council of one Florida city have set out on a mission to increase the safety of their streets by installing red light cameras at intersections throughout the metro area.
A St. Petersburg City Council committee voted unanimously in late September to approve a plan to target the city’s 20 worst intersections for car accidents with new red light cameras. The cameras catch license plates of drivers as they make their way through an intersection after the light has changed to red. Though the cameras are expected to bring an estimated additional $4.3 million in ticket revenue to St. Petersburg in the first year after installation, the City Council insists the motivation behind installation of these cameras is to prevent car accidents and save lives, not to bring the city additional revenue.
City Council members in favor of the installation are quick to reference certain federal studies that conclude such cameras deter 50 percent of would-be crashes at affected intersections by end of year one, post-installation.
Interestingly, the Department of Public Health at the University of South Florida actually found that intersections with red light cameras were actually more dangerous. Their research showed that the number of rear-end collisions actually increased once the cameras were installed. This is likely due to drivers slamming on the brakes when they realize a camera is watching the intersection and they don’t want to risk getting a ticket.
In our next post, we will take a more detailed look at the costs and potential revenues these cameras will create for St. Petersburg, as well as the city’s long-term plans for enforcement.
Source: St. Petersburg Times, “Red light cameras could be in St. Petersburg by summer,” October 1, 2010