By on April 13, 2011

The city council in Highland, California decided three years ago to allow an Australian company, Redflex Traffic Systems, issue tickets at two intersections. Nearly 4300 “violations” have been generated since August 2008, each worth nearly $500. A committee of the council opened debate yesterday on whether the automated ticketing machine contract should be renewed. When the same question was debated last year, officials focused on safety.

“We’ve seen a reduction in serious traffic collisions where the cameras were installed,” Highland City Manager Joe Hughes told the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper in May.

More complete data show that this statement was not true and that red light cameras have had no clear, positive impact on intersection safety in Highland. The claim regarding “serious accidents” is undermined by the city’s current admission that accidents at the photo enforced intersections have always tended to be minor.

“Before and after the installation of the red light cameras we have had very few injury accidents at these intersections,” an April 12 presentation by Highland Police Captain Dave Williams stated. “Most accidents are non-injury.”

At the intersection of Highland Avenue and Victoria Avenue, the average number of accidents in the three years before installation of cameras was 7.7 per year. In the two full years following installation, the average increased 23 percent to 9.5. The raw number of injury accidents increased from 2 to 3 over the same periods. At Base Line Street and Sterling Avenue the accident rate was 5.7 prior to camera use and 8.5 after the devices were installed — a 50 percent increase. Injury accidents also increased from 2 to 4.

The small overall number of accidents makes it difficult to draw statistically significant conclusions, but the figures also show that Highland moved to install the red light cameras at Base Line Street and Sterling Avenue even though no accident at the location had ever been attributed by police investigators to red light running. At Highland Avenue and Victoria Avenue, there were just two such accidents in three-and-a-half years.

The city presentation suggests that because accidents in 2010 were not quite as high as in 2009 that collisions are “reverting back to normal levels” because drivers are becoming accustomed to the presence of the cameras. At the same time, accidents nationwide are down to an all-time low because of high unemployment and high gas prices have reduced the amount of driving.


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4 Comments on “California: Accidents Increase at Photo Enforced Intersections...”

  • avatar

    Americans are very accepting of new technologies designed to make our roads safer. Red light cameras have been honestly tried across the United States. After years of real world results, we now know without a doubt that red light cameras are not a solution to the general concern regarding safety at intersections.

    Intersections are dangerous. Red lights don’t help. Worse, red light cameras make intersections more dangerous. We now know this. Remove them.

    By removing them this does not mean that we have given up searching for a better way to ensure that our roads are safer. Removing them does not mean that cameras do not work theoretically. There can still be a traffic application for them that will assist us.

    If we total up the additional revenues collected through red light camera fines, we may discover that the revenues are offset by other costs. Remove them.

  • avatar

    City Hall cannot be relied on to remove the cameras. It take a court order to force the city to follow their own ordinances which require setting the lights per the FHWA MUTCD. Do the math yourself and you’ll see it is almost impossible to arrive at a light change duration less than 5 seconds.
    5.6 seconds is closer to the real-world minimum you’ll see when the city is following the MUTCD. Sadly, those fighting the cameras seemingly choose to bark at the moon instead of hauling the city into court for the illegal signal timing.

  • avatar

    Californians, watch your asses. Your state government is broke, and probably also your city and county governments. They see every citizen as a potential source of fines and taxes. Maybe I should have said “every driver”.

  • avatar

    On Long Island, New York, Nassau County has just completed a 100 intersection scamera system.   At $50 per, the cash strapped county is milking its residents.  All I can say is “Destroy”

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