Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Do red light cameras work?

Chron reporter Carolyn Feibel, in response to the badgering of a persistent red light camera critic, did some research into their effectiveness, and blogged about what she found. Bottom line is that most of the studies she located indicated that red light cameras reduced serious accidents and total injuries, though there was often a smaller accompanying rise in rear-end collisions. There’s plenty of links there, so go see for yourself. To answer Carolyn’s question at the end, yes the city needs to fund its own study. In fact, they’re required to provide a written report to TxDOT as specified by SB1119, authored by State Sen. John Carona (R, Dallas), which was the bill that granted cities the authority to assess civil penalties for red light violations caught by cameras and which was passed this session. From the bill:

Sec. 707.004. REPORT OF ACCIDENTS. (a) In this section, “department” means the Texas Department of Transportation.

(b) Before installing a photographic traffic signal enforcement system at an intersection approach, the local authority shall compile a written report of the number and type of traffic
accidents that have occurred at the intersection for a period of at least 18 months before the date of the report.

(c) Not later than six months after the date of the installation of the photographic traffic signal enforcement system at the intersection, the local authority shall provide the department a copy of the report required by Subsection (b).

(d) After installing a photographic traffic signal enforcement system at an intersection approach, the local authority shall monitor and annually report to the department the number and type of traffic accidents at the intersection to determine whether the system results in a reduction in accidents or a reduction in the severity of accidents.

(e) The report must be in writing in the form prescribed by the department.

(f) Not later than December 1 of each year, the department shall publish the information submitted by a local authority under Subsection (d).

In theory, we should be seeing that report soon.

And speaking of persistent red light camera critics, Kevin Whited left the following comment to that post:

Here’s something also to consider — if we have identified certain intersections as extremely dangerous (dangerous enough for the cams), wouldn’t it make sense heavily to publicize the fact that those intersections are under surveillance?

The current signage is minimal. If an intersection is dangerous enough for cameras, I would think it would also be dangerous enough for maximum signage warning people that they will be ticketed for running a red light in that intersection, to raise awareness completely (after all, if it’s ALL about safety, then we can’t go far enough to deter/educate those evil red-light runners, even if it means fewer citations!). But so far, the city has resisted that approach….

Well, Kevin, if all the news coverage of the red light cameras plus the Chron’s nifty map of their locations is insufficient for you, then SB1119 and HB1052, authored by State Rep. Bill Callegari (R, Houston), address your concern. Here’s the text from HB1052, which amended Chapter 544 of the Transportation Code to add Section 544.012:

(c) The municipality shall install signs along each roadway that leads to an intersection at which a photographic traffic monitoring system is in active use. The signs must be at least 100 feet from the intersection or located according to standards established in the manual adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission under Section 544.001, be easily readable to any operator approaching the intersection, and clearly indicate the presence of a photographic monitoring system that records violations that may result in the issuance of a notice of violation and the imposition of a monetary penalty.

(d) A municipality that fails to comply with Subsection (c) may not impose or attempt to impose a civil or administrative penalty against a person, including the owner of a motor vehicle or an operator, for a failure to comply with the instructions of a traffic-control signal located at the applicable intersection.

You’ve probably seen one of these signs at the camera-enabled intersections. If you don’t, then the city is in violation of this law, and can be enjoined from collecting the fines it imposes. Similarly, if you think the signs that are there don’t meet the requirement that they be “easily readable to any operator approaching the intersection, and clearly indicate the presence of a photographic monitoring system that records violations that may result in the issuance of a notice of violation and the imposition of a monetary penalty”, then that’s a violation of the law as well. In either case, I recommend doing something about it, like writing a letter to City Attorney Arturo Michel to point out the failure to comply with the law, and then blogging about it. If instead you think the city is complying with the law but that the standard set by that law is too lax, I suggest you contact Sen. Carona and Rep. Callegari with your complaint and urge them to address it in the next legislative session. And if you think the city should do more, above and beyond what state law requires them to do, well, that’s your right. Take whatever action you think is appropriate.

UPDATE: Changed some of the wording in the last paragraph for clarity.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

One Comment

  1. John says:

    Well, it’s been some years since I was in driver ed, but I seem to recall that going through a red light is illegal at ALL intersections. the idea that we should spend money at certain intersections to say, “Hey, and we really, really mean it for this one!” is kind of offensive; aren’t we better off having citizens knowing that any red light running might lead to a citation and perhaps taking the radical step of just stopping at red lights?

    Personally, I think the fines are too low, and we should put dummy cameras all over the place and switch the cameras around regularly without telling people where they are. Running a red is an incredibly dangerous violation; the people who do it are showing utter disregard for the safety of the rest of us, and shouldn’t be on the road at all.

    If in the process the city collects a lot of revenue – good. I’d rather see more of the funding for city government come from penalizing dangerous lawbreakers than property taxes on the rest of us.