Traffic enforcement cameras are very much in the news. When you Google "red light camera" and 2014, the search retrieves almost 500,000 articles reports and other items on the topic. A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows cities are using camera enforcement to  curb red light running, with 505 communities operating red light camera programs as of April 2014 and 131 communities managing speed camera programs as of April 2014.

GPN has presented commentaries on the need for red light and speed cameras on U.S. highways from several groups and individuals.

Charles Territo, who is senior vice president of public affairs and marketing, communications at Tempe, Ariz.-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), discussed the growing use of red-light and speed cameras to reduce car crashes and improve driver behavior in this GPN posting.

John Bowman, communications director of the Waunakee, Wis.-based National Motorists Association, offered his views on traffic camera trends and enforcement in this GPN posting.

Here are the views of Anne McCartt, who is senior vice president of research at the Arlington, Va.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in the paragraphs below.

Red light cameras are saving lives

Red light running kills nearly 700 people and injures more than 100,000 each year. More than half of those killed are pedestrians, bicyclists and occupants in other vehicles who were hit by the red light runners. Since the 1990s, communities have used red light cameras as a low-cost way to police intersections.

Camera enforcement works. A recent Institute study comparing large cities with red light cameras to those without found the devices reduced the fatal red light running crash rate by 24 percent and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 17 percent.

Without cameras enforcement is difficult and often dangerous. In order to stop a red light runner, officers usually have to follow the vehicle through the red light, endangering themselves as well as others. Moreover, the manpower required to police intersections consistently would make it prohibitively expensive.

Critics contend that red light cameras increase rear-end crashes. Some but not all studies have found increases in these collisions, but rear-enders tend to be less severe than the high-speed front-into-side crashes significantly reduced by camera enforcement.

Proper engineering of intersections and yellow light timing are important, but they aren’t enough by themselves. In Philadelphia, for example, longer yellow lights reduced red light running by about a third, but after cameras were installed the remaining violations dropped 96 percent.

An engineering change that eliminates red light running and dramatically reduces injury crashes is replacing traditional intersections with roundabouts. Drivers are forced to pay attention at roundabouts, and with no stoplights or cross traffic, there’s no need for camera enforcement.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a nonprofit research group funded wholly by automobile insurance companies with the mission of reducing motor vehicle crashes.

Since Kansas City, Missouri’s red-light safety camera program was temporarily suspended in November 2013, the city has seen an increase in the number of red-light runners. Red-light running events captured by ATS cameras increased by nearly 48 percent in December 2013, compared to December 2012. This video shows some of the serious car crashes that have taken place due to red-light running since the suspension

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