By on July 1, 2011

[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, HeathCincinnatiGarfield 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.

The study claimed Garland, Texas supported cameras by 66 percent, but three Texas cities – Baytown, Houston and College Station have terminated red light cameras.

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.

Source: PDF File Attitudes Toward Red Light Camera Enforcement (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 6/30/2011)

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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13 Comments on “IIHS Red Light Camera Study “Not Credible”...”


  • avatar
    PintoFan

    The results of referendums don’t really “prove” that red-light cameras are unpopular, any more so than Ron Paul winning an internet poll “proves” that he will be the next President. On any given issue, especially one as marginal as traffic cameras, the people who win the referendums are those with the most vocal and committed group of supporters, not necessarily those in the majority. This is how Christine O’Donnell got nominated in Delaware. It’s all about voter turnout- in this case, anti-red light camera groups came out in force and won the referendum, even though the majority of citizens might actually be in favor of having red-light ticketing programs.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      PintoFan,

      I don’t like red light cameras. The story supports my dislike of red light cameras. The poll does not. While you have a valid point I choose to disregard it because it doesn’t support my point of view.

      Just wanted to be honest with you.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    For the record, I loathe camera enforcement, I’m no fan of the IIHS (an insurance lobby that pretends to be a research group), and I’d like to see the Supreme Court rule that enforcement cameras are unconstitutional (although I’m not holding my breath for that last one.)

    But some of these points are nonsense:

    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.

    Phoning up land lines is a perfectly legitimate to conduct opinion polls. Gallup et. al. do something similar, and often get fairly accurate results. I’m not sure what The Newspaper believes that pollsters are supposed to do in order to get a random sample.

    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

    A quick bit of research would indicate that voter turnout was about 60%. So 40% of the registered voters didn’t bother showing up, plus there were others who either can’t vote or don’t wish to go to the trouble of being able to vote. So while I applaud the voters of Anaheim for keeping the cameras out, let’s not confuse the election result with the opinions of the average adult, many of whom weren’t consulted on election day.

    Like the IIHS, The Newspaper has an agenda. It’s an agenda that I happen to agree with, but it’s still an agenda. Sometimes they push things a bit far.

    I would fully expect that a majority of citizens would support cameras. The average person thinks that he is an above-average driver and that it is everyone else except himself who is to blame for bad driving and accidents, so the cameras are great just so long as they catch those other people. George Carlin would say that anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, while anyone who drives more slowly than you is an idiot — the routine was funny because most drivers really believe that.

    Suffice it to say, traffic cameras are something that it would behoove us to oppose. Whether or not the average person agrees with the sentiment doesn’t mitigate the cameras’ intrusion on our privacy or their conflicts with the Sixth Amendment.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      “A quick bit of research would indicate that voter turnout was about 60%”

      Just out of curiosity, where did you come up with that figure? Because it seems pretty high. Nobody cares about local elections most of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Just out of curiosity, where did you come up with that figure?

        The election count was from an election website. (It was called Measure K, if you want to look it up.)

        The voter turnout was a guesstimate. I found a recent article that indicated that 10% of the city’s voters were needed to get a referendum on the ballot, and in this case, 10% = 12,000 voters. (Sorry, I deleted the link, but you may be able to find it if you look around.)

        The referendum was held during the last mid-term election, so the turnout isn’t surprising. If it had been some off-cycle election, my guess is that a lot fewer people would have shown up. This stuff is very interesting to car enthusiasts and a few civil libertarians, but most people are just not excited about it…until they get a ticket.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      So true, Pch101, so true.

      I read this thinking… if one political conducted a poll that suggested people wanted a particular measure (pick whatever you want), it is likely that the other political party would suggest that the poll was flawed.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        if one political conducted a poll that suggested people wanted a particular measure (pick whatever you want), it is likely that the other political party would suggest that the poll was flawed.

        That’s right.

        And that doesn’t change the fact that I still want to be able to maintain my right to confront my accusers, particularly when the weight of the prosecution’s case weighs entirely on the camera evidence. Even if 99% of the country’s population disagreed with or was apathetic about that right, I would still want that right for myself. The right to cross-examine opposing witnesses shouldn’t be ignored, no matter what the results are from a popularity contest.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Phoning landlines may skew the poll towards the older respondents. It may have been appropriate a decade ago, but the younger (or more hip) people like cell phones. My father insisted on getting a touch smartphone.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    So their sampling technique produced a sample that was significantly older than the general population. Reminds me of the telephone poll that predicted Dewey would win the 1948 presidential election instead of Truman.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Serious pollsters analyze their results and weight responses to reflect demographic compositions of the regions they’re polling. Sometimes this is used deceptively, particularly when the demographic trait used to weight responses is something whimsical, like political party affiliation, and other times it is a metric of actual fact, like age or race. This poll was flawed. The referendums weren’t stand-alone polls. They were on ballots with state and national elections. More Californians than not are learning the realities of red light cameras, which are used for revenue generation only, carry absurdly high fines, lead to shorter yellow light cycles and dangerous behavior at intersections, and the IIHS is pimping to raise more drivers’ insurance rates.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      I agree with your post but I’ll just pick a few words out of your last paragraph to comment on;

      “…..lead to shorter yellow light cycles and dangerous behavior at intersections……”

      This is really the whole issue in a nutshell. I’m referring to “dangerous behavior” NOT the shorter yellow light cycles.

      Let me make this clear….it is human beings with selfish and poor driving attitudes and skills that are the problem.

      They can put cameras every 50 feet on every road on the planet and there will only be tickets issued and revenue generated when ignorant drivers transgress.

      And NO…I am not a perfect driver by any means and, furthermore, I don’t particularly support red light cameras either but….

      I am just trying to point out that the constant whining about traffic rules and enforcement is starting to get old.

      Don’t speed, don’t run red lights, no wuckin furries!

      We recently had a visitor to our city wrote in to our local rag all sarky and complaining that a camera van nailed him for speeding up on the #1 Hwy through here and what a “poor welcome to our city” it was and how he wouldn’t be coming back.

      Needless to say the comments section was full of pleasant messages of farewell to the asshat.

      Again, I’m laboring the point I know, sorry, but too many people on the roads are just not willing to accept responsibility for their actions and they look for any excuse to justify themselves.

      OK, rant over and sorry for going a bit off topic but I guess I’m getting close to geezerhood now and I no longer think the road is just for MY convenience and I guess I want everyone to think the same.

      LOL….wait, was that a flying pig???

      (An aside…Ford of Britain once had a model nicknamed “The Flying Pig”…anyone remember which model??)

      Oh, and Happy Canada Day all and 4th of July too!!


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