Support for big brother: Survey finds use of red light cameras favored

Consumer Reports News: June 30, 2011 03:48 PM

In order increase safety and reduce crashes at intersections, a number of cities have been using red light cameras to catch drivers who violate the law and run through them. This controversial practice has been called an invasion of privacy by some, but now a new survey found that there is high support from drivers for these efforts and fatalities in those cities have dropped.

The survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that two-thirds of drivers in 14 major cities who have red-light cameras support their use. This study is a follow up to the recent finding that these cameras have reduced fatal red-light-running crashes by 24 percent in the same cities.

Here are the findings in the 14 cities studied and the percent of those in favor of the cameras.

City Percent in favor of red light cameras
Bakersfield, CA 68%
Baltimore, MD 67%
Chandler, AZ 75%
Chicago, IL 65%
Garland, TX 66%
Long Beach, CA 48%
Phoenix, AZ 74%
Portland, OR 68%
Raleigh, NC 62%
Sacramento, CA 71%
San Diego, CA 64%
Santa Ana, CA 54%
Toledo, OH 58%
Washington, DC 78%

Nine out of 10 drivers in the study believe it is unacceptable to run a red light, and eight out of 10 say it’s a threat to personal safety.

Critics of the red-light cameras are quite vocal saying they are an invasion of privacy and that the cameras are meant to make more money for the cities, not increase safety.

More than a quarter of respondents said the cameras can make mistakes and some noted that they make the roads less safe. Voters in eight cities have rejected the cameras in the past three years. One example was in Houston where 53 percent of people voted against the measure. However, IIHS found that 56 percent of Houston drivers favor the cameras, so there is a slight disconnect between the drivers and voters.

In 2009, 676 people were killed and about 130,000 were injured in crashes from drivers running red lights. Currently, red-light cameras are used in about 539 communities and 14 states have state-wide authority for camera use.

Last year, IIHS noted that speeding and running red lights were the most important traffic safety issues that needed to be addressed to help reduce the deaths on America’s roads.

What do you think? Are you in favor of red light cameras and why?

Learn more about car safety in our special section.

Liza Barth

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