By on November 25, 2009

Peek-a-boo! (

Accidents rose after the installation of a red light camera at one major intersection in Baytown, Texas. The private company American Traffic Solutions began issuing automated tickets at the intersection of Garth and Baker Roads on March 21, 2008. Since then, safety has not improved at the controversial camera location.

According to a brochure published by the city, “red light safety cameras” were installed because, “There have been more than 1,000,000 accidents and more than 1000 deaths attributed to red light runners that occur each year in the United States.” Presumably, the cameras are meant to reduce the number of collisions and deaths at Baytown intersections.

This has not happened according to accident reports from all three monitored approaches of the Garth and Baker intersection from eighteen months before the installation of cameras compared to the same period afterward. Instead, the total number of collisions grew by 11 percent. Although proponents of cameras frequently suggest that the increase in rear end collisions (31 percent in this case) is offset by the reduction in “more serious” collisions, the data show, to the contrary, that there was no reduction at all in the number of serious injury accidents.

“Remember this when the city tells you it is about safety,” Baytown resident Byron Schirmbeck said. “Keep in mind this is the city’s own report.”

Schirmbeck requested the accident data after noticing that the city had claimed a 63 percent accident reduction at the intersection in its report to the state department of transportation. He found the numbers hard to believe.

Schirmbeck has also twice caught the city shortening the yellow warning time in order to increase ticketing revenue at the same intersection. In June, he challenged the city for using a 3.1 second yellow timing, a value that was set just before camera installation after a “synchronization study.” After the short yellow was exposed, the city was forced the city to increase the timing to the legal minimum of 4.5 seconds. In July, however, the city shortened the yellow to just 4.0 seconds and justified the move by installing a 40 MPH speed limit sign on the 45 MPH road. As of now, the city has replaced the lowered speed limit sign and increased the yellow to the bare minimum allowable time of 4.5 seconds.

Schirmbeck is circulating a petition to put the question of whether red light cameras should be banned to the voters. Earlier this month, College Station residents voted to ban automated enforcement. ATS deactivated its cameras in that city yesterday.

A copy of the accident data is available in a 1mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Baker and Garth Accident Reports (City of Baytown, Texas, 11/24/2009)


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7 Comments on “Texas: Accidents Increase at Controversial Red Light Camera Intersection...”

  • avatar

    Does anybody know of a city where the red lights LOWER the accident rate?
    It seems to me its clear now, beyond any argument, that this IS and ALWAYS WAS nothing more than a gain in taxes with the use of public safety as the reason.,0,2590486.story

  • avatar

    According to the NHTSA accident report database for 2008 ( ) there were almost as many fatal accidents at intersections controlled by stop signs as there were at intersections with traffic signals. There’s no breakdown, but I would assume the traffic signal number is composed not only of people who run red lights, but people with a green light turning into oncoming traffic they didn’t see or people legally turning right on red who didn’t see that semi coming, etc. If it wasn’t all about the revenue, more safety gains could be had by installing stop sign cameras everywhere… 

    (Edit – I wish the Canadian government would put on their big boy pants and publish content like this. I am impressed both by the data here and the fact you can build and run your own database queries against it. An informed populace is a good thing)

  • avatar

    There have been more than 1,000,000 accidents and more than 1000 deaths attributed to red light runners that occur each year in the United States …

    A million accidents from running red lights?  Lot of accidents.  That’s about 2 accidents per minute every minute of every hour of every day all year long, every year?

    Maybe it’s accurate.  Big country.  Lots of cars.  …but I’d start by wanting to take a look at their data.  1 mil. just doesn’t sound right.

  • avatar

    The increase of accidents probably is due to the “change” itself and not due to the “camera”. In other words, if they removed an existing camera, there could be an increase of accidents too. Let it settle for 10 years when everyone gets used to the new system and then look at it.

    • 0 avatar
      Ralph SS

      No.  I’ve seen more than enough data.  Over 10 years a lot of people could be hurt, die or suffer serious financial hardship.  TraileorTrash is on it.  The only reason red light camaras have come in vogue is for revenue for theiving municipalities.

  • avatar

    Sounds like they need safe following distance cameras next.  And to stop changing the signal timing.  Whatever it takes to catch speeding, tailgating, red-light running, illegal passing criminals would be great. We had a red-light runner total our car, probably total another one, and put a pedestrian in the hospital, a few years ago.
    Really, they ought to require black boxes with GPS in cars, with an external connector so after a crash the police can just link in and figure out what happened without searching the car.

  • avatar

    I don’t really care what the data is showing, they should be banned everywhere.  I understand the towns/cities need money, but treating everyone like a criminal who needs to be watched constantly is not the way to do it.

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