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Love 'em or Hate 'em – New Study Contends Red Light Cameras Would Reduce Number of Fatal Houston Car Accidents

Veteran Houston personal injury lawyers understand the risks associated with motorists who run red lights or disobey traffic signals. Now a new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports 12 cities with red-light cameras have reduces crashes at intersections by 24 percent.

Red-light camera programs are easy to hate. But the fact remains that Houston car accidents frequently occur at intersections.
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Houston voters rejected the city’s red-light camera program in a hotly contested ballot issue last November, the Chronicle reported. The program had issued more than 800,000 tickets and collected $44 million in fines since 2006, pouring an estimated $10 million into city coffers each year.

“The cities that have the courage to use red light cameras despite the political backlash are saving lives,” says Institute president Adrian Lund.

In 14 cities that had cameras between 2004-08, the report found crashes blamed on red-light runners fell by 35 percent. The rate fell by 14 percent in 48 cities without the cameras as the number of traffic accidents nationwide continues to decline.

Based on that data, researchers concluded the cameras contributed to a 24 percent reduction in crashes. Detractors say they increase instances of rear-end collisions, are a violation of motorists’ rights and are used as nothing more than a tool to generate revenue for local municipalities.

However, researchers contend the benefit is even larger when comparing fatal crash data. The rate of fatal crashes fell 14 percent in cities with camera-equipped intersections, while it crept up 2 percent in cities without cameras.

Officials believe at least 159 lives were saved as a result. Nearly 1,000 lives could have been saved if the cameras had been installed in all 99 U.S. cities with a population over 200,000 during the last 5 years.

Red-light runners are a primary cause of fatal accidents, claiming 676 lives and injuring more than 113,000 in 2009. Two-thirds of the deaths victimized someone other than the offender, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

Supporters of the program continue to argue that we need to get past the mentality of offender as victim.

“Somehow, the people who get tickets because they have broken the law have been cast as the victims,” Lund says. “We rarely hear about the real victims — the people who are killed or injured by these lawbreakers.”

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