By on February 15, 2010

Photo enforcement may not be improving traffic safety in Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to preliminary data presented to the city council on Monday, the installation of red light cameras and speed cameras in March 2009 has thus far failed to produce any statistically significant reduction in accidents. The city’s public works department, in close consultation with Redflex Traffic Systems, did try to argue that the numbers showed the program was worth keeping.

“Another positive outcome for red light cameras,” Traffic Engineering Administrator Dan Soriano said. “The severity is dropping.”

The raw data, on the other hand, tells a different story. The total number of accidents increased 18 percent from 39 collisions before cameras were installed to 46 after installation, while the number of injury accidents remained essentially the same. The city data only covered three of the four monitored intersections from March 2008 to December 2008, before cameras, in comparison to the same period a year later, after cameras. According to Soriano, the fourth intersection was excluded because of road construction.

A “severity index” was created to adjust the figures in a way that would make the photo enforcement program appear to create a safety improvement. The formula for this index assigned a weight of 10 to a fatal accident that took place at the intersection of Valley Drive and Avenida de Mesilla in 2008 involving two drunk drivers. There was no such accident the following year. Excluding the drunk driving collision from the calculation would have produced a negative result for the severity index at the locations where the automated ticketing machines were installed, even though the the severity index dropped throughout the city at intersections without cameras. Injury accidents were given a weight of three and property damage collisions were only scored one point, as the biggest increase in accidents involved rear end collisions. View city chart.

Although the traffic safety result was questionable, the program’s financial results were clear. The city finance department estimated that the cameras would generate $5,012,847 in revenue through fiscal 2011. As a result, the city council decided to expand the program by adding two more red light cameras. The city also claims that it has the authority to seize the automobiles belonging to those accused of not paying an automated citation sent through the mail.

“That certainly gives us an opportunity to enhance those collections,” city Comptroller Pat Degman explained.

The cameras installed issue both red light and speeding tickets, with seventy percent of citations going to speeding tickets.

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3 Comments on “New Mexico: Red Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents...”

  • avatar

    Here in Phoenix speed cameras are set up in a nearby 55 mph zone. They have been set up for months at the same locations and there are signs warning drivers that the cameras are ahead.

    Amazingly they do catch a few drivers but another small minority come into the zone at 70+ slow to below 60 for the cameras then speed back up to 70+.

    I go for months without seeing any police on this highway so apparently the city is relying almost totally on the cameras for safety control. This is of course ridiculous. I have seen quick avoidance moves around those slowing and then speeding up.

    The near by village of Paradise Valley has one truck mounted speed camera, the village does not use warning signs, and the truck is well hidden along its 40 mph streets. Only tourist go much over 40 anywhere in PV.

    Paradise Valley is a small exclusive area with expensive homes and no commercial businesses are allowed so they are probably hard up for tax money.

  • avatar

    What’s interesting is that the newspapers accounts here in las cruces spin it as “Report shows red-light cams reducing violations”, so obviously the cameras are working. They domention that accidents are down from two years ago, but no comparison from 1 year ago.

    One aspect that has gotten little attention here is that tickets are given for making a right turn faster than 12 mph. Since discovering this nugget of info (it hasn’t been widely advertised, and of course there is no posted 12 mph turn speed limit sign), I’ve realized that I typically turn right at ~ that 12 mph limit…I’m not sure how this is legal, not to mention how ridiculous it is.

  • avatar

    Well, I certainly know which city I plan to avoid on my next vacation thru the Southwest! If they’re gonna make a cool 5 mil over the next 2 years, then they don’t need me to stop and spread the wealth with my tourist dollars there, do they? I guess I’ll fill up and eat in El Paso instead! Maybe if enough people complain to the owners of small businesses and tell them that they’re not spending tourist money there BECAUSE of the traffic cameras, they might act to make the city remove them. If your town has cameras, say goodbye to a LOT of tourists!

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