Do Red-Light Cameras Improve Roadway Safety?

Red-light cameras popped up widely in Minnesota and across the country in the last decade, providing a way for cities and municipalities to ticket traffic violators without direct police stops. The cameras take photos of cars going through red lights, focusing on their license plates. In many cases, violators will receive a ticket in the mail. However, while the systems are generally effective in increasing revenue and catching red-light runners, they have also drawn criticism. Some say that the cameras do not decrease fatalities and serious injuries due to car accidents, while others criticized them as a revenue mechanism that does not focus on safety.

In particular, cities like Chicago have been challenged over their implementation of the cameras. The well-known camera system was combined with the shortest allowable yellow-light timing under law, which led to a growing number of drivers speeding up to get through the yellow lights and a resulting increase in rear-end motor vehicle collisions. However, others say that poor implementation in some places does not mean that the red-light camera idea should be discarded. They point to evidence that the cameras increase the safety of everyone on the roads. After all, around 800 Americans lose their lives every year in car accidents linked to drivers running red lights.

Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that red-light violations declined by around 40% after the cameras were installed in a location. In another study, the institute found that large cities with the cameras installed had 21% fewer red-light crash fatalities.

Negligent drivers that violate red lights and other traffic safety laws remain a serious threat that causes major injuries and permanent disabilities. People injured in auto accidents due to someone else running a red light may work with a personal injury lawyer to pursue compensation.