[Editor’s note: My take on the IIHS study’s shortcomings can be found here]
The public relations arm of the insurance industry yesterday released a report claiming red light cameras are popular in big cities. About 24 hours after Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had begun spinning this study to media outlets, only a handful had run stories. Editors at one daily publication told TheNewspaper that they passed on writing about a claim they did not find credible.
The IIHS report’s primary conclusion was that 66 percent of drivers in fourteen major cities supported red light camera use, and only 28 percent opposed it. The group hired OpinionAmerica Inc to conduct polling from February 19 through March 29, 2011. The firm randomly dialed numbers until it reached 222 landline customers in each of the large cities with an active automated ticketing program. This process created a pool of respondents significantly older than the general population. Nearly 64 percent of the survey respondents were over the age of 51, although only 30 percent of the US population falls into that age range, according to US Census Bureau data. Only 5 percent surveyed were under the age of 30, whereas 21 percent of the driving-age US population is under 30.
The findings are at odds with the actual results of referendum votes where upset citizens successfully petitioned to place bans on photo enforcement onto the ballot. Instead of proving to be a “vocal minority,” these activists secured an actual majority in fifteen out of fifteen ballot contests. In Houston, Texas 53 percent voted against red light camera use in November 2010. IIHS claims the same city supported cameras by 57 percent.
Similarly, IIHS insists Santa Ana, California supported cameras by 54 percent. This claim is implausible considering 73 percent of voters in Anaheim, a bordering city of equal size, prohibited the city council from ever installing red light cameras. According to IIHS, Toledo, Ohio cameras had 58 percent support. This is unlikely considering five Ohio cities — Chillicothe, Heath, Cincinnati, Garfield Heights and Steubenville — all banned photo ticketing.
The study claimed Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland supported cameras by 78 and 67 percent respectively. The only city in the area to have a vote, Sykesville, Maryland, rejected cameras by 61 percent.
Photo enforcement companies are currently working in Washington state to block initiative votes from even appearing on the ballot, a sign that the firms believe they would lose the vote. Last year, 71 percent ofMukilteo residents voted to ban cameras. A copy of the IIHS report is available in a 350k PDF file at the source link below.