Despite controversy about traffic cameras that catch red-light runners, most drivers in 14 big cities where the technology is available support its use, according to a new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Even in Houston, where 53 percent of residents voted to shut off cameras in November, the survey found that 57 percent of drivers favor them, including 45 percent who strongly support them. Houston is one of eight cities to reject red-light cameras in ballot initiatives in the last three years--opponents say the cameras violate privacy and are a local government tactic to raise revenue.
Red-light camera enforcement can reduce fatal crashes
The survey findings follow an IIHS study that showed camera enforcement programs reduced fatal red-light running crashes by 24 percent in the same cities. In the 14 cities that had cameras from 2004 to 2008, but didn't have them in an earlier comparison period, automated red light enforcement saved 159 lives. Had cameras been operating in all large U.S. cities during the same period, the cameras would have saved 815 lives, according to the IIHS.
Safer driving conditions, which might be fostered through red-light camera enforcement programs, can help cut car insurance rates by reducing the number of crashes.
Findings from the IIHS study:
- Overall, two thirds of respondents support red light cameras, and 42 percent strongly favor them.
- Most drivers who are aware of the camera programs in their cities say they make intersections safer. Almost half know someone who has gotten a ticket, and 17 percent have gotten one themselves.
- Of those who oppose the use of red-light cameras, 26 percent say the cameras can make mistakes, 26 percent say they're used for money, not safety, 19 percent say they lead to more crashes, and 17 percent say the cameras invade privacy.
- Respondents are more ambivalent about the use of cameras to crack down on right-on-red violations. Almost a fifth of drivers say they support cameras but oppose right-on-red enforcement. Forty-one percent of drivers support using cameras for these violations.
The surveyed cities and the percentage of drivers who support red-light cameras are:
- Bakersfield, Calif. 68%
- Baltimore, Md. 67%
- Chandler, Ariz. 75%
- Chicago, Ill. 65%
- Garland, Texas 66%
- Long Beach, Calif. 48%
- Phoenix, Ariz. 74%
- Portland, Ore. 68%
- Raleigh, N.C. 62%
- Sacramento, Calif. 71%
- San Diego, Calif. 64%
- Santa Ana, Calif. 54%
- Toledo, Ohio 58%
- Washington, D.C. 78%
The latest survey polled more than 3,000 people in 14 large cities with a 2 percent margin of error. An additional 300 people were surveyed in Houston with a 6 percent margin of error.