Survey Says: Red Light Cameras Save Lives


I live in a city with red light cameras and yes, I’ve paid the price. A $200 price in fact, for not coming to a complete stop before turning right at an intersection on a red. And, when I called to complain that it’s legal to turn right on a red in my state, the chirpy little representative was quite happy to direct me to a video of myself not coming to a complete stop. Big Brother, thou art in charge.

Now, the latest study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the blasted things have saved 159 lives between 2004 and 2008 in 14 of the biggest cities in the United States. Based on all the metrics involved in the study, the Institute concluded that if red light cameras had been present in all the 99 cities they examined in the 5 year period under study, 815 lives would have been saved. And those are the kinds of car accident statistics we’d prefer to hear.

Well, I can tell you this. I couldn’t afford the $200 fine and I’ve never turned right on a red again without coming to a complete stop. And trust me, I get honked at angrily all the time. But, as much as I hate to admit it, this old dog did learn a new and more responsible trick. I know which intersections have cameras, but this is not a selective behavior on my part. I stop before turning at all intersections. So, while I still think many municipalities use the cameras as a revenue-generating measure, I have to admit, they have altered my behavior for the better. Currently there are about 500 cities in the U.S. that use the cameras.

Because I’ve gone several years without a moving violation or a car accident, I was lucky. Getting the red light ticket didn’t raise my auto insurance premium. It did, however, make me aware that the second ticket most likely would. If your city is one that currently has the red light cameras or is contemplating putting them in, don’t ignore the situation. You’ll get the ticket without even realizing it. My citation came in the mail and I didn’t even recognize the street names at the intersection where it happened. It’s a hefty one-time expense, but if you’re not careful, it will translate into higher insurance costs. Neither one is worth it. Obey the red light laws in your state. For everyone’s sake.

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