Do “Red Light Cameras” Save Lives?

Recently, there has been debate as to whether so-called “red light cameras” are effective at preventing people from running red lights, and whether that in turn saves lives.

Earlier this month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study that concluded that red light cameras reduced reduced the rate of fatal crashes resulting from cars running red lights by 24%.

However, as explained at the Agitator blog, other less intrusive measures have been shown to be more effective at preventing red light crashes, such as extending the length of yellow lights:

Actually, the argument is that there’s good evidence showing that lengthening yellow times is a far better way to prevent intersection accidents than red light cameras. It’s more effective, and doesn’t come with the creepy surveillance state vibe. Somehow, that doesn’t seem as appealing a policy to city governments.

Data and articles regarding the efficacy of lengthening yellow light times can be found here at the National Motorists Association website.

In fact, as explained here at the National Motorists Association’s blog, much of the data regarding red light cameras and reduced accidents involved traffic lights where the yellow light time was also extended:

The most telling research measuring the effect of red light ticket cameras involves exposing the same population of drivers to intersections with and without cameras, and logging the results.

When this is done (and other games aren’t played, like increasing the yellow light duration at ticket camera intersections and crediting the improvement to the cameras) invariably, the non-camera intersections continue the long term trend of reduced accidents and the ticket camera intersections experience an increase in accidents.

Thus, it’s difficult to tell whether the extended yellow light times or the red light cameras were the cause of the decrease in accidents.

Thus, the jury’s still out on the efficacy of red light cameras. In the meantime, the best way to avoid car accidents is to keep your eyes on the road and drive safely.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law ( handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 600-0000 and