Insurers Support Va. Red Light Cameras

December 22, 2005

The American Insurance Association has added its support to the call of traffic safety advocates to reinstate red light camera enforcement in the state of Virginia. The law that allowed seven Virginia communities to use automated technology to enforce red light running was allowed to expire this year.

According to AIA, cameras have been shown to significantly reduce red light violations and intersection crashes. Photos are taken only after a violation occurs, i.e., when a motorist enters an intersection after the signal light has turned red. Motorists inadvertently in an intersection when the signal changes to red (waiting to turn left, for example) are not photographed, officals say.

Studies show that violation of red lights and other traffic controls, such as stop signs and yield signs, is the most frequent type of police-reported urban crash.

“Red light cameras can help communities enforce traffic laws by automatically photographing vehicles whose drivers run red lights,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “A nationwide study of fatal crashes at traffic signals in 1999 and 2000 estimated that 20 percent of the vehicles involved failed to obey signals. In 2004 alone, more than 900 people were killed, and an estimated 168,000 were injured, in crashes that involved red light running. About half of all deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.”

According to new statistics released by the Virginia Beach Police Department, red light running violations at several intersections formerly equipped with red light cameras have spiked approximately 99.5 percent since July, when the law expired. The same cameras, which previously had been authorized for enforcement, have continued to monitor violations. At just four intersections, these cameras have seen an increase of red light runners from 488 in June to 1,056 in November.

The insurers maintain that the actions of the Virginia legislature run contrary to the primary recommendation of a 2004 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council, which urged extension of the camera programs for at least one year. The study also directly credited the cameras with reducing red light running crashes in four Northern Virginia communities; found that the cameras reduced red light running violations by 34 percent; were technologically reliable; and, had widespread public support.

“A large majority of the U.S. public supports use of red light cameras,” explained Snyder, citing a 2002 nationwide survey sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and conducted by the Gallup Organization that found that 75 percent of drivers favored the use of red light cameras.

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