( – promoted by lowkell)
Last week, a subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates’ Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee approved legislation introduced by Del. Scott Lingamfelter to halt increased use of red light cameras across the Commonwealth. That legislation is expected to be voted on shortly by the full committee, focusing public debate on the utility of the cameras.
Clearly, Del. Lingamfelter is a skeptic, but the reality is, there are good reasons to support deployment of red light cameras at some intersections, especially when considering their role in improving and maintaining public safety by reducing collisions and changing driver behavior.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light running is the leading cause of urban crashes; in 2009, nearly 700 people were killed and over 100,000 people injured in crashes that involved red light-running. Furthermore, IIHS data shows that about half of all deaths that result from accidents involving red light running are those of pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by
those running red lights. Additional IIHS data demonstrates that 27 percent of car crash deaths in 2009 were the result of side-impact crashes, the most dangerous of crashes and the ones red light cameras were designed to reduce.
As early as 2006, the Federal Highway Administration reported that the use of red light cameras resulted in a 25 percent decrease in those perilous side-impact crashes, with a 16 percent reduction in injury stemming from them. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Tony Zucaro of the Virginia Beach Police Department says that his city has seen reductions in violations as high as 73 percent in some intersections thanks to camera installation and use. Representatives of Chesapeake, Alexandria, Fairfax County, the Virginia Municipal League, Nationwide Insurance and the AAA Clubs of Virginia testified against Del. Lingamfelter’s bill, along with opponents of the legislation from Virginia Beach, like Zucaro.
The reality is that red light cameras enjoy popular support, nationwide and in Virginia because they do help save lives. IIHS data from 2003 shows that that 84 percent of Fairfax residents supported right light camera deployment; a much more recent 2009 Public Opinion Strategies Poll however found that 69 percent of Americans back the use of red light cameras at the most dangerous intersections.
There are legitimate reasons why local officials should not be blocked from installing red light cameras, as the city of Falls Church recently has done along Route 7 (Broad Street). According to Falls Church councilmember Robin Gardner, “What I’ve seen at the intersections in question is that they’ve been a help in the past and they’ll be a help now” (the cameras are a pure public safety measure, and not designed to add to Falls Church’s revenue stream). Delegates should be sure to review the facts and hear folks like her and Deputy Chief Zucaro out before casting a vote on Del. Lingamfelter’s legislation– hamstringing local officials where public safety is concerned is risky business.