Red-light cameras save lives but cause more collisions

« The T-bone accidents have gone down. Those are the most dangerous. »


Red-light cameras save lives but result in more crashes that cause property damage, a new study says, as drivers slam on their brakes at camera intersections to avoid tickets causing chain reaction crashes from behind.

Researchers at the University of Florida College of Public Health say the findings, based partially on statistics from Toronto’s red-light cameras, show the program is flawed. "Before and after" studies of 38 red-light camera intersections in Toronto revealed that collisions resulting in death or injury dropped 18.2 per cent. But property damage-only collisions rose 4 per cent.

A wider look at all six Ontario municipalities with red-light cameras, including Toronto, showed that fatal and injury crashes dropped by 6.8 per cent while property damage collisions were up 18.5 per cent.

The Florida researchers, whose review included studies in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as Ontario, noted that "increased rear-end crashes were a particular problem and may occur as drivers attempt to stop abruptly in order to avoid a ticket."

The researchers suggested Florida could be asking for trouble if it introduced red-light cameras because of the state’s high number of elderly drivers who are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash.

Toronto politicians say the drop in deaths and injuries here is enough reason to keep the cameras.

"Our documentation shows that in Toronto it’s been a sensational success," said Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker, chair of city council’s public works and infrastructure committee.

"Red-light cameras are saving people’s lives, saving people from being maimed and injured," De Baeremaeker added. He hadn’t seen the Florida study but doubted it would change his view.

The Toronto experience showed a 26.2 per cent drop in "angle" or T-bone crashes, while rear-enders were up 10.1 per cent.

"The T-bone accidents have gone down," De Baeremaeker said. "Those are the most dangerous."

The program has achieved its objective of reducing severe collisions, city officials said in a report.

under surveillance

  • In addition to Toronto, Ontario municipalities with red-light cams include Hamilton, Ottawa and the regions of Halton, Peel and Waterloo.

  • Provincewide, angle crashes dropped 25.3 per cent while rear-enders increased a whopping 49.9 per cent.

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