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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.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 7, 2011 5:07PM

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."

 

Lives saved

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:

15Comments
Jul 7, 2011 10:19PM
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There are far better ways to promote safety. While in China I saw that they have large LED signs that show a countdown to the next light change.

My only problem with red light cameras is that the lights aren't standardized in any way. As you approach a light that has just turned yellow, and are going the speed limit, the light may only stay yellow for 2 or 3 seconds or it might not change for 15 seconds. Often to not get caught in the intersection you would have to stand on the brakes and risk being rear ended.

In those intersections, with the countdown, in China all yellow lights last 15 seconds so you know. The green and red lights start flashing 10 seconds before they change. This means that you get plenty of warning, as do the cars behind you. The flashing light also calls your attention so that anyone who is distracted sees that the light is about to change.

While these measures won't bring in the revenue that a camera does they are far more effective for safety.

Jul 8, 2011 8:22AM
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Houston voters voted to shut them down...then they found (paid) some judge to overthrow the election..? So The lady mayor turned them back on...after several months...?

It has Very Little to do about safety....and plenty to do with Revenue and Money...

Jul 7, 2011 7:30PM
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I think who ever did this survey should get their head examined. This is one of the most unfair ways of getting money for the city. the city fathers should answer for this. Surveying a very small cross section of a population and saying it's ok doesn't prove anything. more appropriate is to put it in ballot and seeing what we the people think not just poking it down the throat of us we the people. 
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another example of controlling the masses through FEAR. it is NOT acceptable for a private company to enforce,and profit from citizens posing as law enforcement.  education, not fear, is the civilized solution.
Jul 8, 2011 8:43AM
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All of the Insurance Institutes are strictly about protecting the profits of insurance companies and nothing else.  Don't ever trust anything they say, since it is ALL driven by GREED!
Jul 8, 2011 10:28AM
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C'mon, who actually believes these articles anymore.  The stats are all fake.  Next we'll read an article about how Americans actually want to have their phones tapped and their liberties taken away.
Jul 7, 2011 11:05PM
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this is crap, what a survey, one more tax, has nothing to do with saftey, if saftey really mattered, we would have 20 mph speeds, drive cars with full roll cages etc, if you believe safety, you are weak minded
Jul 8, 2011 5:52AM
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If we didn't live in a police state I'd say go for it, but this is like handing a real gun to a kid. As if these cameras are ONLY going to be used for catching red-light-runners. Please! Can we say big brother?
Jul 8, 2011 11:25AM
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COME ON WHO'S KIDDING WHO HERE MY CITY JUST INSTALLED 7 DIFFERENT RED LIGHT AND SPEED CAMERAS UNDER THE WERE DOING IT FOR SAFETY REASON. NEVER MIND THE CITY IS IN A FINANCIAL PICKLE DUE TO THE DOWN TURN IN THE ECONOMY. IF IT WAS ABOUT SAFETY OF OUR CITIZENS THEY WOULD HAVE PUT ONE AT OR NEAR EACH ONE OF OUR SCHOOLS TO PROTECT OUR MOST PRECIOUS OF CITIZENS BUT IT WAS ABOUT THE REVENUE THAT'S WHY THEY WERE PUT AT THE BUSIER INTERSECTIONS NOT  THE MOST DANGEROUS. 
Jul 8, 2011 7:30AM
Jul 8, 2011 11:17AM
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Red light cameras are OK; speed ones are not.  Speed cameras catch speeders like hunters shoot & kill tethered wild animals.  Catch me speeding the sporting way - with a cop using a radar gun.
Jul 8, 2011 11:09AM
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Can you say "RUBBISH". An article in this morning's Trenton Times says a court has ruled that GPS tracking of individuals is legal. And not just to track criminals. If this is NOT Big Brother watching, I don't know what is. And the survey was done by an insurance affiliate. Really???
Jul 8, 2011 11:47AM
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OK, so it's all about revenue.... so what? Consider it a tax on drivers who drive like idiots and get caught. The same people who b*tch about it, are the same ones who automatically floor it when they see a yellow light, even if they are 50 yards away. Drive somewhere near the posted speed limit,  use the yellow light as it's intended, as a warning that the red is coming up, and quit putting everyone else at risk by trying to make the light in the last nanosecond. Yes, it's all about revenue.... we'd love to break your leg for running a red but hey, we're just going to tax you $75 for driving like a d*ck.
Jul 8, 2011 5:44AM
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What is it like 30,000 people a year die in auto crashes? Who knows how many are injured? And how many times a day do YOU run an intersection? Having been T-boned I am a HUGE fan of cameras provided there is a great big sign letting all know it is there. This way  we're letting you know Big Brother is watching and maybe, just maybe you will think twice before gunning it on yellow.  If you want to be a moron and gun it when you see yellow then YOU should pay the price. To all those "they just want to raise revenue" clear-heads all I can say is DUH. If you run a red light why shouldn't you pay the price? Just answer that ONE question. Again: if you run a red light why shouldn't you pay the price? If you don't run lights why would you be opposed to cameras?  I say up speeding fines too. You want to do 30 over the limit and tailgate while you talk on the phone? You should get nailed.  
Jul 7, 2011 9:07PM
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I support red light cameras, but not speed trap cameras...No particular rhyme or reason.
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