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Study: Louisiana Red Light Cameras Fail To Reduce Accidents
Journal of Trauma report on Jefferson Parish, Louisiana red light camera intersection found no significant safety benefit.

Journal of Trauma
A brief study published in this month's Journal of Trauma examined whether red light cameras installed at a Jefferson Parish, Louisiana intersection caused a reduction in the number of traffic collisions. A team of medical doctors from Tulane University examined accident statistics for ten months before and ten months after the activation of cameras on October 24, 2007. The team found no statistically significant reduction in the number of accidents.

"Red light cameras do not seem to prevent traffic collisions at this monitored intersection," the study found. "Alternative means of injury prevention must be investigated."

Researchers examined the effect of camera use at Clearview Parkway and Veteran's Memorial Boulevard, which State Farm insurance labeled as the ninth most dangerous intersection in the United States. The study did find that Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the cameras, was able to issue fewer tickets after the installation period. From January through June 2008, however, tickets remained relatively steady at about 400 per month -- enough to generate about $528,000 in annual revenue for the intersection.

"The steepest decline occurred during the initial four months of the study period," the report found. "The mean number of citations stabilized and maintained this decrease when compared with the first half of the study."

In the report's brief treatment of safety statistics, researchers expressed surprise that the reductions in accidents promised by insurance industry studies failed to materialize.

"This study did not find a similar reduction in the total number of collisions," the report stated. "This is perhaps due to the short-study period of only 10 months. Additional explanations include the absence of subset-analysis of different types of collisions, side- or front-end collisions compared with rear-end collisions. This study was designed to detect the difference in total collision episodes not the difference in types or injuries in collisions."

Longer term, independent studies have found that red light cameras may even increase the number of accidents (view studies). The Tulane researchers suggested that there are better alternatives to using cameras.

"Engineering counter measures have also been used to reduce red light running," the study explained. "These include lengthening the yellow signal, dedicated turn signals and lanes, and reducing approach speeds to intersections."

Jefferson Parish suspended its use of red light cameras earlier this year after documents revealed that Redflex paid 3.2 percent of the revenue from the camera program to lobbyist Bryan Wagner who shared the funds with the wife of District Judge Robert Murphy. The Redflex cut of the intersection above would be about $256,000. Assuming the other ten intersections in the parish would be at least as productive, Wagner was set to earn $90,000 a year from his cut of the photo tickets. Federal investigators are now looking into the matter.

Source: Red Light Cameras: Do They Change Driver Behavior and Reduce Accidents? (Journal of Trauma, 3/22/2010)

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