1/27/2005Virginia DOT Study Shows Cameras Increase Injury Accidents
The Virginia Transportation Research Council studied all of the state red light camera programs and found an overall increase in injury accidents.
A brand new, exhaustive study of all seven Virginia red light camera programs shows an overall increase in injury accidents has occurred where the devices are installed. The study was performed by The Virginia Transportation Research Council at the request of the state transportation secretary. The report also notes a fatal flaw in the Virginia's camera law -- motorists can ignore any ticket received in the mail. Only tickets that are personally served matter (the same thing happened in Arizona).
Despite a distinct sympathy in favor of camera enforcement, the researchers found a "definite" increase in rear-end accidents and only a "possible" decrease in angle accidents. Most importantly, the net effect was that more injuries happened after cameras are installed. Camera proponents explain this away by asserting angle accidents are more serious, but this claim has not been scientifically studied according to this report. The rear end collisions caused by the cameras still produce injuries -- the original promise of camera proponents was that they would reduce accidents and injuries, not rearrange them.
This study agrees with long-term findings in Australia and North Carolina.
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Further analysis indicated that the cameras are contributing to a definite increase in rear-end crashes, a possible decrease in angle crashes, a net decrease in injury crashes attributable to red light running, and an increase in total injury crashes. Page xiii
Summary of Empirical Bayes Method (Level 4 Analysis)
[Editor's note: only Fairfax County data reflects the most rigorous analysis. Other cities did not provide volume, yellow time, and data on other key factors.] The latter half of Appendix D shows the results of an Empirical Bayes analysis for Fairfax County crash data only. These results suggest the following:
- The cameras are correlated with an increase in total crashes of 8% to 17%.
- The cameras are correlated with an increase in rear-end crashes related to the presence of a red light; the increase ranges between 50% and 71%.
- The cameras are correlated with a decrease in crashes attributable to red light running, and the decrease is between 24% and 33%.
- The cameras are correlated with a decrease in injury crashes attributable to red light running, with the decrease being between 20% and 33%.
- The cameras are correlated with an increase in total injury crashes, with the increase being between 7% and 24%.
...but it obscures the that only a small percentage of crashes are attributable to red light running. Data from Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, suggested that in 1998 (a year when no red light cameras were in operation), only 3.3% of all crashes involved a driver who 'ran traffic control' (DMV, 1999). Page 124
There is a practical issue with regard to issuing citations for red light running: the Code of Virginia requires that an in-person summons, rather than certified mail, be used to compel an individual to appear in court. Because of the high cost of delivering summonses outside Virginia, this requirement could make the programs administratively difficult for some localities if it became commonly known that only an in-person summons can require a vehicle owner either to pay the penalty or to appear in court. However, the program can still legally continue in its present form without a change in the Code. Page xiiSource: Evaluation of Red Light Camera Enforcement Programs in Virginia (The Virginia Transportation Research Council, 1/27/2005)
A Fairfax County assessment showed a 40% reduction in accidents after 3 months of camera operation (Ruby and Hobeika, 2003). A limitation of the study, however, was that it covered only a 3-month period. Further, the study did not account for the changes in the yellow time while the impact of the cameras was examined. Page 13
The one surviving legal worry actually turns out to be a practical problem, generated by the interaction of the notice provisions in the enabling statute and the Commonwealth's other service requirements. Because the mere mailing of a ticket without personal service by a law enforcement officer does not constitute sufficient notice under the statute's own terms, successful enforcement may require personal in-hand service if the accused fails to either pay the penalty or come to court. Although the statute permits the jurisdiction to make the initial attempt to summon the accused to court via mail, if the person fails to respond, he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice. However, personal service on all violators is obviously a very expensive proposition, involving many personnel hours, and would defeat one of the primary motivating factors for employing automated detection systems in the first place'a reduction in the number of officers required to enforce red light laws. Thus, unless a jurisdiction is willing to devote resources to implementing extensive in-hand service, citations mailed for red light camera violations become essentially unenforceable. The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact. Again, this is a practical, but not legal, challenge. Page 17
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