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Red-Light Cameras: Yea or Nay?

Law enforcement and safety advocates (two groups that, ideally, overlap) have long looked for ways to discourage dangerous driving behavior. As a recent collision reminds us, running a red light puts the driver and others on the road in danger of serious injury or death. Many communities have looked to red-light cameras as a tool for preventing and punishing the offense, but reports on their effectiveness have been mixed. In this post, we look at a recent review of red-light cameras in Tallahassee. This is an issue of concern to our Panama City car accident law firm, both our professional work helping accident victims, and our personal role as members of our Panhandle community concerned with safety on our roads.

Red-Light Running Leads to Three-Car Crash in Panama City Beach

Over the weekend, WJHG reported on a three-car accident in Panama City Beach. According to police, at just past 11 P.M. on Saturday night, a Chevrolet SUV ran through a red light at the intersection of Magnolia Beach and Thomas Drive. The SUV collided with a Volkswagen, which spun and landed on its right side on top of a Mazda that was waiting for the light. The Volkswagen's unidentified female driver was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries.

Looking at Tallahassee as a Case Study in Red-Light Cameras and Results

In December, Tallahassee city leadership examined data on the use of red-light cameras in the city over the prior three years. As detailed by WCTV, city officials noted that the cameras are capturing an increasing number of accidents, but suggested that statistic did not tell the complete story, and a more detailed look is needed to understand the full story.

Michelle Bono, Spokesperson for the City of Tallahassee, said that the cameras have caused drivers to change their behaviors and slow down on yellow lights rather than speed up. Tallahassee's Traffic Management Division says the cameras are effective, noting that T-bone accidents are down 35% and injury-causing accidents are down 36%. However, the number of rear-end accidents has risen by 56%, with some residents noting that the cameras cause people to stop the moment a light turns yellow due to fear of being ticketed. Taken together, this suggests that the overall accident rate may have grown, but that more serious accidents have been prevented by the cameras.

If the measure of success is the number of red-light runs per day, the cameras have been effective, at least in some places. At the corner of Monroe and Tennessee, city research shows that there are now fewer than 20 red-light runs per day, compared to 400 before the cameras. Bono cites this statistic as proof of the project's effectiveness, although she notes that the cameras have not been a money generator for the city. During the 3 years the cameras have been used, they have generated $497,000, less than half the projected $1 million in fines. Tallahassee will not formally review its contract with the camera operators until April 2015.

Drivers: The Leading Accident Prevention Tool (and the Leading Accident Cause)

In sum, the news on red light cameras is mixed. We are encouraged by the reduction in injury crashes associated with the cameras, but we do worry about the overall increase in accidents, and we understand that cost-effectiveness factors into a locality's decision to use any given safety device. As always, it comes down to a basic truth – the best accident prevention tool is an educated, attentive driver. Yellow lights provide a middle space between green and red, and they ultimately call for a decision to stop or go based on a driver's knowledge and experience. The decision should be motivated by a concern for safety above all else, although a camera may be an added incentive to comply with safety-related traffic rules.

If another driver's unsafe decisions leave you or a loved one injured, call our Panama City injury law firm. Your call is the first step towards recovering monetary compensation


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