11/7/2009Florida: Early Data Suggest City Traffic Cameras Ineffective
A snapshot of accident data suggests no improvement after red light cameras installed in Temple Terrace, Florida
An early look at the performance of the red light cameras in Temple Terrace, Florida shows that they have done nothing to improve safety. Instead of merely repeating city claims on the topic, investigative reporters for the Tampa station WFTS ordered accident reports and checked the data for themselves. Although the program has been operational for a year, police only released enough data to produce a limited snapshot of the effect on accidents.
Over the first five months of the program, accidents decreased citywide by 13 percent compared to the same period a year earlier without cameras. At intersections with cameras, however, the number of accidents more than doubled from six to fourteen. Contrary to claims that red light cameras decrease accident severity, the average police estimate of damage costs for each accident increased by twenty percent after cameras were installed.
Although a five-month period is insufficient for drawing scientific conclusions, the early data in Temple Terrace match the seven-year performance history of photo enforcement programs in places like Virginia and the District of Columbia. Independent studies showed a significant increase in accidents and injuries following the installation of cameras (view studies).
Other aspects of the Temple Terrace program have been more successful. With 20,674 tickets issued as of September 2009, city budget documents predicted the red light cameras would generate $1 million. This represents a significant increase from the $75,000 raised by civil traffic infractions issued by police officers in the city.
Whether the city will be able to keep this revenue is another matter. In July, attorney Jack L. Townsend, Sr filed a lawsuit against Temple Terrace for allowing American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to operate a program that issues tickets for traffic violations based solely on photographic evidence. The move directly violated a 2005 ruling by the state attorney general (view ruling) that stated such ticketing was not permitted under state law.
A copy of the data obtained by WFTS is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.