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Crashes at Red-Light Camera Intersections Up 10%, Incapacitating Injuries Up 27%

| January 9, 2017

Pedestrians have benefited more from red-light cameras than have motorists, who have experienced a steep rise in crashes at camera-equipped intersections, according to a new report by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. (© FlaglerLive)

Pedestrians have benefited more from red-light cameras than have motorists, who have experienced a steep rise in crashes at camera-equipped intersections, according to a new report by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. (© FlaglerLive)

A multi-year analysis of crash data at intersections with red-light cameras in Florida, including Palm Coast, shows a distinct increase in total crashes, including angle-crashes and rear-end crashes, an increase in fatalities, and a dramatic increase in incapacitating injuries.

The analysis from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles belies claims by red-light camera supporters that the devices improve safety at traffic intersections and provide new ammunition to state lawmakers intent on eliminating red-light camera programs. (Sen. Travis Hutson, who represents all of Flagler County, has previously supported the repeal of red-light cameras.)

“The purpose of red-light cameras is not about safety. It’s about money,” Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, told the News Service of Florida. “We finally have the proof we need.” Artiles has filed legislation on several occasions to end the use of red-light cameras. He’s doing so again this year, with support from Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who oversees the state transportation budget. Senate Bill 178 would eliminate the cameras by 2020.

The total number of crashes at intersections increased from 5,107 crashes before cameras were installed to 5,625 after the cameras were installed, a 10.1 percent increase that exceeds the 8.3 percent increase in overall vehicle miles traveled during the same period. The number of angle crashes, which red-light cameras are supposed to reduce, increased by 6.7 percent. The number of rear-end crashes, long associated with the emplacement of red-light cameras, increased 11.4 percent. Fatal crashes doubled, from five to 10, and crashes resulting in incapacitating injuries increased 27 percent, from 153 to 194.

There was a 1.8 percent decline in crashes involving non-incapacitating injuries, a 3.1 percent decline in collisions involving vehicles running red lights, and a 20 percent decline in crashes that involved pedestrians.

“The crash analysis should be put into context of the overall complexity of the issue at hand, as many factors may contribute to the change in number of crashes outlined in this report,” the analysis, released on Dec. 31, notes. Among those qualifying factors is the fact that there is no uniform tracking system, wither of red-light camera data overall nor of crash data at camera-equipped intersections, where some jurisdictions include precise GPS coordinates in crash reports (thus facilitating more accurate analysis) and some not.

Palm Coast took part in the survey, but reported data from only two of its intersections, where it showed 10 crashes before cameras were installed, declining to eight after.

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Palm Coast first installed red-light cameras in 2007 and has had them since, at one point approved increasing the number of cameras to 52, though it never got that high. The city reduced its number of cameras to just five in 2015, though four are actually active currently. Palm Coast’s cameras are set to come down this year as the city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions ends. ATS runs most of the state’s red-light camera programs, paying Palm Coast $350 per camera per month regardless of the number of flashes or tickets generated, thus generating $16,800 for the city’s Street Improvement Fund. The company then takes a portion of the profits from ticketing (each ticket is $158), sending the rest to the state.

The city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions is scheduled to end this year. The city has often defended the use of cameras and claimed, with no solid evidence, that the cameras made intersections safer. The cameras became lightning rods for public and at times official criticism, including criticism from two local judges and a former clerk of court, and the Florida Supreme Court in 2014 declared pre-2010 red-light camera programs such as Palm Coast’s illegal. Later that same year, an appeals court declared key provisions of post-2010 programs illegal as well, forcing Palm Coast and many other governments either to suspend or scale back their programs—and to realize that red-light cameras were not worth the bad publicity or bureaucratic hassles.

The department based its analysis on data from January 2013 to April 2016 at intersections where the cameras were on throughout the period. Crashes occurring within 250 feet of the intersection were analyzed before and after the installation of cameras at each intersection, and crashes occurring anywhere other than the roadway, such as in nearby parking lots, were eliminated.

68 local governments responded to the survey—all those with red-light cameras in place—but only 59 of those had functioning red-light camera programs, with a total of 688 actual cameras active as of mid-year in 2016, down from 965 two years before, a decrease of 29 percent. Six governments eliminated their red-light camera program in the past year, an additional 15 reduced the number of cameras in place. And another 11 told the state they were ending their program the following year. But even as the number of cameras has declined, the number of issued violations has increased–by 27 percent in the last year of the analysis alone, suggesting that companies are trying to make up for the loss of camera emplacements with increased flashes.

In 2015-16, 1.23 million red-light camera citations were issued statewide (they’re officially called “notices of violation), with 150,530 of those to repeat offenders, a significant increase from the 55,400 citations to repeat offenders the previous year. Almost a third of the notices were unpaid, and were converted into state-issued Uniform Traffic Citations. The state budget received $60 million from fines generated by red-light camera tickets, with $53 million going to cities, counties and private companies running the programs, such as ATS.

Red-Light Camera Report (2016)

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11 Responses for “Crashes at Red-Light Camera Intersections Up 10%, Incapacitating Injuries Up 27%”

  1. John F. Pollinger says:

    During my campaign for Sherrif four years ago, I called it for what it was; a hidden tax on the community.

  2. James C. Walker says:

    There is nothing unusual for red light cameras to cause more crashes, this has happened in many cities all over the USA. The for-profit camera companies and their for-profit city business partners and the state budget which gets 52.5% of the total camera revenue DO NOT CARE that the cameras cause more crashes, so long as the millions of dollars of revenue keep rolling in. The first, last, and ONLY reason for cameras is $$$$.

    Every Florida resident needs to call and write their state Representatives, Senators, and the Governor to politely but clearly insist that House Bill 6007 and Senate Bill 178 to totally ban red light cameras become law. Let each official know you find the cameras to be unacceptable and that complete removal is the only acceptable solution. Contact information:

    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

  3. James C. Walker says:

    Absolutely correct, Mr. Pollinger. Former Rep. Ron Reagan pushed the bill through the legislature in 2010 with $83 of each $158 ticket (52.5%) going to support the state budget – without the state paying a penny of the typical $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera costs. Mr. Reagan later went to work for the National Coalition for Safer Roads, the thinly disguised front group for the camera company ATS. I debated him at two state legislative hearings where he spoke well, but without peer-reviewed research to support his positions. Anyone who thinks his employment record is a coincidence is likely naive.

    Then the for-profit camera companies who lobby and make campaign contributions regularly to keep the cameras going get another roughly 25% or more. Hopefully the level of opposition has reached the point that the legislature will vote to uphold the wishes of the people and ban the cameras statewide.

    James c. Walker, National Motorists Association

  4. Fredrick says:

    Is it the camera’s that are causing the accidents or people driving in an unsafe manner?

  5. PJ says:

    It’s a con by ATS………..

  6. Richard Smith says:

    I think Palm Coast should put more effort into curtailing the number of Right-On-Red infractions which cause significantly more problems for other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists that have the right of way versus the cost and effort they have put into the useless Red Light Camera intersections. However, when it comes to dollars most municipalities refuse to give up their income generating sources and basically that’s all the Red Light Cameras are good for is creating an income stream.

  7. James C. Walker says:

    For Fredrick
    The Florida Department of Transportation forbids cities to set the safest length yellow intervals at most intersections. It was required to set proper intervals before July 2011, but is now forbidden in most cases.

    The state is a for-profit business partner in the racket of red light cameras and they must end.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  8. Makeitso1701 says:

    I think it has more to do with more people texting while driving than anything else. Just look around you next time your driving around town, every other person is on the cell phone.

  9. James C. Walker says:

    For Richard Smith
    NHTSA found that right on red turns, with or without a full stop, were involved in only six one-hundredths of one percent (0.06% or 0.0006) of all crashes with injuries or fatalities. Many Florida camera rackets depend on ticketing high numbers of safe drivers making safe slow rolling right on red turns when there were no conflicts with pedestrians, cyclists, or other vehicles. The cameras are a larcenous racket that must end.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  10. no says:

    How about you drive safely and stop on red – no money spent at all and you starve the red light camera company. Of course this won’t happen, too insane to realize.

  11. James C Walker says:

    For no says:
    How about the Florida Department of Transportation stop forbidding most traffic lights with cameras to have yellow intervals timed for safety, instead of timed for more camera tickets to give the state more $83 commissions on each $158 ticket? Before July 2011, FDOT required yellow intervals timed to the actual approach speeds of at least 85% of the cars, today they forbid this proper safety practice.

    Red light cameras are for-profit government-run rackets aimed mostly at safe drivers for cash.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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