New Study Suggests Red-Light Cameras Significantly Reduce Fatal Accidents

Cameras save lives, says study. But at what cost?
Here's one for all you red-light camera haters: A study released yesterday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that cameras saved 159 lives in the fourteen biggest U.S. cities that used the technology from 2004 through 2008.

Had cameras been in use in all the nation's largest cities, some 815 deaths could have been prevented, according to the study that was highly favorable of red-light cameras. The IIHS analysis is sure to add to the debate over the controversial cameras that many see as little more than a revenue generator for the municipalities that use the devices.

And while the study suggests that cities with red-light cameras saw fatal accidents decline by 35 percent when compared to accident statistics in the 1990s, cities without red-light cameras also saw a decline in fatal accidents of 14 percent using the same comparisons. The authors of the study then took that difference (21 percent) and added a few intangibles to suggest that red-light cameras actually reduce fatal accidents by 24 percent.

The IIHS study did acknowledge earlier research that's shown red-light cameras can increase rear-end collisions as people stomp on the brakes to avoid a ticket. However, those crashes pale in comparison to the deadlier side-impact (a.k.a. "T-bone) collisions that have been shown to decline by as much as 32 percent at intersections with red-light cameras.

The study further argues that the concerns of those injured in intersection collisions are often overshadowed by the angry voices of those opposed to the cameras for financial or privacy concerns. The study found that nearly two-thirds of those injured at intersections were not the people who ran the red light, but instead other motorists and/or pedestrians hit by the scofflaw vehicle.

The study did not look at data from St. Louis.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tells me that they funded the study with no financial backing from red-light camera operators. The IIHS, according to a spokesman, is funded wholly by automobile insurance companies tasked with researching ways to reduce crashes.

What would be really interesting now is for a study to look at the IIHS numbers and determine how much the red-light cameras have taken in to prevent the loss of life. For example, if the cameras really did save 159 lives in the 14 largest cities that used the cameras from 2004-08, how much did those same cameras take in in revenue during that time period? In short what's the price tag on how much these cameras cost per saved live?

I know. You're always going to get some grand-standing politician to say: "Even if they save just one life, they're worth the cost regardless."

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"Insurance Institute for Highway Safety"

This organization has an interest in seeing drivers ticketed so that they can raise rates. Insurance industry groups have always been at the forefront of issuing drivers citations - as their funding is what brought radar guns into common place as well.

My point is you must consider the source here, they are not unburdened by bias.


Nothing's free. In St. Louis, it's $100 for each violation with one of these cameras. And it's the same fine for the person who callously blows through a red light or the person who doesn't come to a complete stop while turning right on red in an empty intersection. So, I still say it would be interesting to see how much money these things have raised for cities and red-light companies (which generally get a 66% cut) compared to the lives saved.

Paulie W.
Paulie W.

This program is funded 100% by violators. It costs taxpayers NOTHING!

Here's an idea, follow the law and you have nothing to worry about!

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

Even NBC's Today Show unexpectedly cancelled coverage of this study last minute because they realized it was so flawed. This was all orchestrated to attempt to derail SB1352 in Arizona which would prohibit Photo Enforcement, just like Sen. Jim Lembke's SB16 will do here in Missouri.

In fact, the IIHS does not even know how many photo enforced intersections are in the cities they studied by their own admission. How can you do any kind of legitimate study on the efficacy of the systems and not even know that? The Insurance Institute is primarily the public relations arm of the automobile insurers that rely upon ticketing programs to increase annual premiums. Anne T. McCartt, senior vice president for research, was one of the three researchers who coauthored the report. Her doctorate is not in engineering but from the Rockefeller School of Public Affairs, which offers degrees only in public administration or politics -- the perfect preparation for a career in manipulating the media to advance public policy.


Where are the 'Dislike' buttons - absolutely essential.


Right... and if as long as you're doing nothing wrong - you've got nothing to hide. So no need for warrants / civil rights either.

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

No cost to the taxpayers other than the millions of dollars that the the 3rd party scamera vendors suck out of our local economies and send to Arizona in the case of ATS, or Australia in the case of Redflex? Money that would otherwise likely be spent in our local communities. Interesting how IIHA chose a period prior to the prevalence of side impact airbags for the "without cameras" period ('92-'96), a period for after that includes four years of the fewest miles driven due to high unemployment and high gas prices ('04-'08).

This study is like the tobacco companies attempting to validate their assertion that smoking increases lung capacity.

Why does the IIHS support these? The answer is simple, in many states, these are points assessable violations, this means that they can raise premiums as much as $500/year while providing no additional service if an insured gets one of these. Also, the rear end collisions that these cause also allow for the increase in premiums.

See the study debunked here:


I agree completely!

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