In a vote of 3-2, the town council for the City of Davie, Florida approved the use of red light cameras within their city limits. As I wrote about this issue previously, the implementation of red light cameras is highly controversial. The controversy exists because there really is no credible evidence that the use of red light cameras actually decreases traffic accidents. On the contrary, the studies appear to prove the exact opposite, that red light cameras increase intersection collisions.
As long ago as 1995, the Australian Review Board conducted a study comparing the use of red light cameras with the number of traffic accidents. This study analyzed the long term effect on accident-types of red-light cameras at 41 intersections in Melbourne, Australia. The cameras were installed in 1984, and reported accidents for the period 1979 to 1989 were used in the detailed analysis. The study concluded the following:”The results of this study suggest that the installation of the RLC at these sites did not provide any reduction in accidents, rather there has been increases in rear end and adjacent approaches accidents on a before and after basis and also by comparison with the changes in accidents at intersection signals.”
“There has been no demonstrated value of the RLC as an effective countermeasure.”
In 2007, the Virginia Transportation Research Council issued a report which also showed an increase in traffic accidents. The study concluded: “After cameras were installed, rear-end crashes increased for the entire six-jurisdiction study area… After controlling for time and traffic volume at each intersection, rear-end crash rates increased by an average of 27% for the entire study area.””After cameras were installed, total crashes increased.”
In 2001, the office of U.S. Congressman Dick Armey uncovered a very interesting fact when performing their own analysis of the issue. Representative Armey’s office found that the author of those studies that advocated that red light cameras improved traffic safety was the very same man who invented the device and stood to profit from its widespread acceptance and implementation. This study concluded: In short, the only documented benefit to red light cameras is to the pocketbook of local governments who use the devices to collect millions in revenue.”
I have to agree with Representative Armey’s conclusion. Because of the devastating impact that our economic recession is having on local governments, local governments appear to be looking for any way to increase revenues. However, the implementation of an idea that will actually increase traffic accidents is extremely shortsighted, in that an increase in traffic accidents will place an additional monetary strain on police and fire rescue units who are required to respond to an accident scene.
If the city of Davie and other local governments truly want to increase traffic safety, then the banning of cell phone use is the most efficient way to accomplish this goal. Whether that can be accomplished on a local level or state level is the topic for debate, but there is no question that cell phone use is a major contributing factor to traffic accidents here in the State of Florida. How often do you look over in the next car and see someone with their head down texting rather than paying attention to the road?
The bottom line is if you want to decrease traffic accidents, you must ban cell phone use while driving and be willing to hand out stiff fines and jail sentences when applicable. In the meantime, the 3 members of the Davie Town Council should reconsider their vote, which will only have a negative impact on those citizens who are struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times.