California Lawmakers Consider Curtailing Red Light Camera Programs

A new bill seeks to restrict the use of red light camera systems in California; this could lead to an increase in serious red light running accidents.

Red light camera systems aim to discourage speeding, red light running and related accidents. However, many people view these systems in a negative light. In various states, the systems have been criticized for improperly issuing tickets or violating the rights of motorists. As a result, red light camera programs are being banned or phased out in various areas. As many Calabasas residents know, similar measures are currently being weighed in California.

Unfortunately, these changes could ultimately have harmful effects on roadway safety in the state. Without the camera systems in place, more drivers may start engaging in reckless or irresponsible driving behaviors that endanger or harm others.

Camera bans and consequences

Lawmakers are now considering a bill that would ban the installation of new camera systems throughout California. According to ABC News, the bill would not automatically terminate all existing programs. However, the bill would require cities to conduct studies into the efficacy of these programs and halt the ones deemed ineffective.

Troublingly, research suggests that banning new camera systems and turning off existing ones may have adverse effects on safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports the following facts on the effects of red light camera programs:

  • The programs are associated with lower rates of red light running. In one study, light running violations decreased 40 percent in intersections with camera systems. In a second study, violations that occurred 1.5 seconds into red light phases dropped 86 percent.
  • The installation of camera systems can offer far-reaching benefits. Red light running may even decrease at nearby intersections that lack cameras as motorists improve their general habits.
  • The programs can reduce serious accidents. In one study, red light running crashes that resulted in fatalities fell 24 percent in intersections with cameras. In another study, overall crashes that caused injuries fell 29 percent at camera-equipped intersections.

The prevention of red light running may have significant safety impacts, since this behavior causes a high number of injuries and fatalities. According to the IIHS, in 2012, 683 lives were lost and over 133,000 injuries occurred in red light running accidents. If camera programs are curtailed in California, motorists may face a greater risk of experiencing these accidents.

Existing accident risk

Critics of red light camera programs often contend that these systems make rear-end accidents more likely. Research into this issue has yielded mixed results, but some studies support this assertion. According to the IIHS, one study found that rear-end accidents rose 15 percent in intersections with camera systems. Other research and anecdotal evidence also point to a rise in rear-end accidents and associated injuries.

Still, the IIHS notes that red light cameras often have an overall positive effect. This is because rear-end accidents tend to be less serious than right-angle crashes, which red light cameras do reduce. This is why many studies show overall fatalities falling after red light camera installation, even if rear-end accidents increase. In other words, the removal of the red light cameras may result in fewer rear-end accidents but more catastrophic collisions.

Help after accidents

The ongoing controversy surrounding the safety benefits of red light camera programs underscores the dangerous nature of intersections. Regardless of the fate of California’s camera programs, motorists may face a high risk of accidents whenever they drive in this setting.

Legal recourse may be available when intersection accidents occur because of the reckless actions of other drivers. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving speeding, light running or other negligent behaviors should consider consulting with an attorney about potential legal options.