People like red light cameras after all
The opposition might be vocal, but a new survey indicates a majority of drivers think the cameras improve road safety.
This post comes from James R. Hood at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.
Red light cameras are a lot like taxes. Everybody's in favor of them as long as somebody else has to pay, as confirmed by a recent survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The survey found that two-thirds of drivers in 14 big cities with longstanding red light camera programs support their use.
"Most drivers don't buy the argument that it's somehow wrong to enforce the law just because you're using a camera to do it," says Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research. "They understand that this technology is preventing crashes in their cities."
An earlier IIHS study found that red light cameras save lives. In the 14 cities that had cameras in 2004-2008 but didn't have them in an earlier comparison period, automated red light enforcement saved 159 lives, the study said. If cameras had been operating in those years in all large U.S. cities, a total of 815 deaths would have been avoided.
IIHS says the strong public support confirms that red light camera opponents, while vocal and often influential, are a minority.
"Even in Houston, a city that voted in a November 2010 referendum to shut off its cameras, a majority of drivers say they favor red light camera enforcement," IIHS said.
In the latest survey, more than 3,000 people in the 14 study cities were interviewed by cellphone and land line between Feb. 19 and March 29. The survey has a margin of error of about 2 percentage points.
An additional 300 people were surveyed in Houston because of its recent vote to shut off the cameras. The city installed cameras in 2006, which was too late to be included in the crash study group. The Houston survey has a margin of error of 6 percentage points.
More than nine of 10 drivers surveyed in the 14 cities believe running a red light is unacceptable, and more than eight of 10 deem it a serious threat to personal safety. Two-thirds favor red light cameras, and 42% strongly favor them.
Among the 89% of drivers who are aware of the camera programs in their cities, a majority say the devices have made intersections safer. Nearly half know someone who has gotten a ticket, and 17% have gotten one themselves. Of the latter, about half believe it was deserved.
Previous surveys also have found widespread support for red light cameras, but opponents continue to claim that the programs violate privacy and are cooked up by cities merely to generate revenue. Voters in eight cities have rejected camera programs in ballot initiatives during the past three years.
In the 14 study cities, a little more than a quarter of respondents said they oppose cameras. Asked why:
- 26% said cameras can make mistakes.
- 26% contend that cameras are about money, not safety.
- 19% said they make roads less safe.
- 17% said they're an invasion of privacy.
The question was open-ended, and respondents could give as many reasons as they wanted.
Right on red
The survey found less support for the use of cameras to crack down on right-on-red violations than for red light cameras generally. Such violations include making a right on red where it is not permitted and making the turn without stopping.
Cities differ on whether they issue tickets for rolling right-on-red turns when they are caught on camera. Nearly a fifth of drivers say they support cameras but oppose right-on-red enforcement. Forty-one percent of drivers support using cameras for these violations.
The percentage of drivers who support red light cameras in each of the 14 study cities:
- Bakersfield, Calif., 68%.
- Baltimore, 67%.
- Chandler, Ariz., 75%.
- Chicago, 65%.
- Garland, Texas, 66%.
- Long Beach, Calif., 48%.
- Phoenix, 74%.
- Portland, Ore., 68%.
- Raleigh, N.C., 62%.
- Sacramento, Calif., 71%.
- San Diego, 64%.
- Santa Ana, Calif., 54%.
- Toledo, Ohio, 58%.
- Washington, D.C., 78%.
More on ConsumerAffairs.com and MSN Money:
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