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Intersection cameras making roads less safe

Every little bit helps when it comes to driver safety. As technology improves, so does the sophisticated equipment we install along the roadways to encourage safe driving and punish those that shirk the rules of the road. In recent years, security cameras perched atop traffic lights have become something of a fixture. Supporters praise the cameras as a means to catch and ticket motorists who fail to stop.

Despite the simple logic of this, just the opposite seems to have occurred. Recent data shows that not only do these cameras not make intersections safer, they are actually creating more accidents in intersections.

Security cameras

Contrary to what seems like fairly simple logic, security cameras on stop lights are keeping the roads anything but secure. Recent analysis by Case Western Reserve University has shown that drivers are choosing to slam on their brakes at yellow lights rather than speed through the intersection and potentially run a red, ccording to the Claims Journal.

“Once drivers knew about the cameras, they appeared to accept a higher accident risk from slamming on their brakes at yellow lights to avoid an expensive traffic citation — thereby decreasing safety for themselves and other drivers,” explains Justin Gallagher, assistant professor at Case Western Reserve.

The data reviewed for the analysis was based on thousands of collisions recorded over a 12-year period in Houston and Dallas. The data shows that when cameras were being used, there was a 28 percent increase in the number of “non-angle” accidents, such as cars rear ending each other. When the cameras were removed there was a 26 percent jump in “angle” accidents, such as T-bone collisions.

What the data means

It is true that T-bone collisions are considerably more dangerous than rear end collisions. In that way, it can be argued that the intersection cameras are increasing the frequency of less life-threatening accidents than when they are not in use. Regardless, Gallagher concluded that, “Our analysis does not support the case that the cameras improve public safety, which is one of the main justifications used by public officials and law enforcement.”

It is unclear right now whether stop light cameras will begin to disappear from intersections around the country. Whether they do or not, be sure to drive safely and approach intersections with caution. Lights help direct traffic, but the best way to avoid an accident is to not exceed the speed limit or be overly aggressive in the first place.

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