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Florida TV Station Busts Red-Light Camera Myths

Accidents are reduced and yellow lights aren’t shorter.

By Douglas Newcomb May 7, 2012 12:39PM

Red light camera. Photo by Flikr user Sterlic/Scott Akerman.Few motorists like red-light cameras. But an estimated 165,000 people are injured each year as a result of red-light crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Such accidents caused 762 deaths in 2008.

That’s why many cities install cameras to snap pictures of the license plates of red-light runners, then send tickets via mail to the registered vehicle owner. But critics contend that any reduction in accidents is offset by an increase in rear-end crashes caused by motorists stopping suddenly to avoid a violation. Many also suspect that red-light sequences are shortened to nab more violators and therefore to generate extra revenue for municipalities.

After analyzing traffic records in five Florida cities, a TV station in Orlando, Fla., refuted critics' claims of more rear-end accidents caused by red-light cameras. The station also showed that red-light cameras do help reduce accidents, and that shorter yellow lights are a myth. Researchers came to a similar conclusion.

Station WFTV pored through Florida crash-data records and found that rear-end accidents dropped as much as 57 percent, and deadly right-angle “T-bone” crashes dropped even more since the installation of red-light cameras. The belief is that drivers’ aversion to a pricey ticket is causing more people to brake on a yellow light, rather than hit the gas to try to avoid stopping on red.

Several scientific studies showed similar outcomes. A study of seven communities in 2005, funded by the Federal Highway Administration, found that cameras help decrease right-angle crashes by 25 percent -- but increased rear-end crashes by 15 percent. Cochrane Collaboration, an international public-health organization, conducted a controlled before-and-after study and didn’t find a statistically significant change in rear-end injury crashes. The organization also noted an estimated 13 to 29 percent reduction in all types of injury crashes, and a 24 percent reduction in right-angle accidents when cameras were in place.

As for the argument that yellow-light times have been reduced to catch more drivers running red lights and help fill city coffers, Florida, like most states, has regulations mandating minimum light times. WFTV timed lights and found that intersections with cameras met or exceeded the state’s minimum standards.

Interestingly, the station also discovered that the camera’s ticketing software rejects any citations issued when a light’s timing falls below the state's guidelines. It also found that Orlando reported a 22 percent drop in red-light tickets.


Another myth busted: A University of Cincinnati researcher discovered that the longer a yellow light lasts, the more inclined drivers are to try to beat it.

[Source: CNET]

May 7, 2012 4:48PM
Second post, this is incomplete due to being blocked.

These devices represent something we should avoid. If we can compromise our rights for perceived safety then there are many more intrusions to be made using that justification. As an example, in Florida nearly 4 times as many people die due to domestic violence than running red lights. Based upon that justification, we should put cameras in everyone's home. A simple solution again- just don't beat your spouse.

May 7, 2012 4:40PM
This reply will be in two posts due to length. The story completely overlooks the legal aspect. Let's say for the sake of discussion that red light cameras are in fact manna from heaven, and within a year there are no crashes (for our discussion we've also cured DUI and inattention, the main causes of injury or fatal red light crashes) and only one or two violations. This does not change the following for cameras installed in Florida:
1. The law makes the owner, not the driver, guilty until they prove themselves innocent via a permissible excuse or finger another as the driver. When our country was founded, the founders had first hand experience with a justice system where the government (King) could compel confessions. They decided against doing so. Of course, there were no traffic tickets in the late 1700's, so the 5th Amendment is for criminal cases only- which allows the local governments to sidestep the issue since these tickets are non-criminal. The principle remains the same. This is an Un-American concept. Some will say the same system is used for parking tickets, so what's the problem? Moving violations like running a red light are as different from parking as murder is from loitering. People are not hurt or killed by over-meter parked cars.

2. The punishment differential for the same conduct is unconstitutional. The 8th Amendment, which unquestionably applies here, prohibits excessive fines. What the camera law here has done is make police-issued regular tickets unlawful since they carry a higher fine and points as well as increased car insurance. Incidentally, if the camera tickets were really about safety, they would likewise carry points- a rating system used to ID unsafe drivers.

3. The lack of due process on the camera tickets violates the 14th Amendment's right to due process before the government takes property (money). There is no way to obtain a hearing from the mailed tickets. A defendant must fail to pay the fine and then receive a regular traffic ticket so they can have due process. Of course, now we are back to the higher fine and points.
May 7, 2012 4:50PM
If the solution here is the standard "just don't run the light", try telling that to the several people in many states that have been improperly ticketed due to incompetence- One such case solved by the same station- by the way the city refused to admit their mistake, so the media had to help the owner. That solution fails to address the legal issues.
May 7, 2012 8:48PM

This article presented selected statistics.  But we all know the saying about statistics.


I appeal to your logic.    


Cameras can't stop the real late runners, who cause the crashes. (If cameras worked, sellers wouldn't have the crash videos they supply to the media.)

A real late runner  (2+ secs. into the red) doesn't do it on purpose.  He doesn't know (a tourist) or doesn't remember (a distracted or impaired "local") that there's a camera up ahead, so the presence of a camera won't stop him. To cut these real late runs, improve the visual cues that say, "signal ahead." Florida's DOT found that better pavement markings (paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signal lights bigger, add backboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the corner. Put brighter bulbs in the street lights at intersections. Put up lighted name signs for the cross streets.

Cameras are not "neutral" - they come with a number of side effects: They (indirectly) block emergency vehicles - cars stopped at a camera hesitate to get out of the way! Other side effects: Rearenders, local $$$ sent to Oz, AZ or NYC, where it won't come back, and tourists and shoppers driven away.

Want safety, no side effects?

Install the visual cues.

To cut car/pedestrian accidents, train your kids (and yourself) not to step out just 'cuz the walk sign came on.

To cut nuisance running (a fraction of a second late), lengthen the yellows. It's cheap to do so can be done all over town.  (And, real world evidence - gathered by existing red light cameras - says that when the yellow is lengthened as little as half a second, violations go down as much as 50%.)

Who needs cameras?

Who needs their side effects?

May 7, 2012 8:01PM
The TV station is not qualified to render a statistical opinion. Just because they state a belief does not make it so. The camera vendors know many statistical deceptions. Where are the TV station's data? see for the statistics performed by PHDs.
May 8, 2012 7:51AM

OK, so red-light cameras don't cause accidents.  It's also an undisputable fact that Fascism doesn't cause tooth decay.  Despite the innocence of red-light cameras and Fascism in these two particular areas, I still object to both.


Red-light cameras are another dangerous step toward a "Big Brother" society in which all individual freedoms are sacrificed for the sake of state control.  Control of movement; control of association; control of speach, and eventually, even control of thought.


We should let our representatives know that we won't stand for state surveillance of our own people.  If that doesn't get rid of the spy cameras, then I say take 'em out with hunting rifles one by one.


The Founding Fathers would be appalled by these damn things.


May 7, 2012 5:24PM

"... if you can get away with it, its okay!" As a teen many of my peers would say, "It's only speeding if you get caught !" It's only domestic violence if you get caught... it's only running a red light ...until someone gets "t-boned"?

Seen that stupity up close too.....

May 8, 2012 1:25PM

The "myth" is that yellow light periods have been shortened to increase the tickets.  All you have documented is that they are above the State minimum, not that they haven't been shortened.  They could have been shortened and still above the minimum.  I suspect that the camera vendors who put their equipment on the intersections on a percentage of revenue basis actually have control of the timing and you can bet they put the yellow cycle on the minimum or even adjust the timing once people get used to the old timeing. Mixing profit with law enforcement is allways a bad idea

May 8, 2012 3:03AM

I had wanted to post links but this site seems to not want to LET any link post SHOWING THE TV stations "claim" to be HIGHLY likely provided by a city with the HELP of a camera vendor likely.


Here is my post without links: 


 few problems with the RLC 'safety" claim. 


1.  Too many studies have found RLC CAUSED MORE wrecks. 


2.  Vendors are NOTORIOUS for maximizing revenue by going after techincal fouls.  Look at this "software" recalibration out of Denver to maximise "touching" the stop line.


3.  There is NO MENTION of what the underlying cause of the RLV crashes were.  HOW many were DUI, fleeing police, weather related, etc.  A RLC CAN only "stop" a RLV crash supposedly.  IT CAN'T STOP NON RLV CRASHES!  To make the claim a RLC will "stop" a non RLV crash is DISHONEST.


4.  The TV station is claiming crashes went "down" even rear ends.  The problem with that claim is WHO PROVIDED THE DATA and what was "left" out to the TV station.   In one town in Arnold MO (Same vendor who does Apopkas) it was discovered the TOWN WAS USING A SHORTER DISTANCE to count accidents to MASK IT!      Quote:  The City of Arnold is so desperate to show that these cameras work, that they only count accidents as ‘accidents’ within 50 feet of the intersection. By using 50 ft. instead of the transportation standard of 133 ft., they have been able to more than halve their reported accidents at red light camera monitored intersections.”


  The vendors are INVOLVED in "authoring": many of these RLC reports.  


 Here is a quote from one article out of AL.  Quote:  "Who conducted the study?

"Redflex had a company do it," he said."


5.  Too many cities have have had their safety claims busted open when people looked closer into it.  LIke this one in Philly.  There where "reportable" is used in the data collection.  (IE NOT ALL ACCIDENTS ARE BEING REPORTED). 

Ban the Cams dot org

May 8, 2012 12:06PM

I was taught that when the yellow light came on, you take your foot off the accelerator -- not push it to the floor!


I see more people speed up to get through an intersection by speeding up to beat the yellow light and end up running the red light and having their picture taken.


Try it the  next time you are out driving (the speedlimit), when the yellow appears switch to the brake - I'd venture to say you will NEVER run a red light again!!

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