Traffic Cameras Make Washington Drivers More Cautious

September 24, 2010

Red-light cameras — recent additions at many Washington intersections — make drivers more cautious in pushing the limits of yellow lights, according to a recent poll.

In a survey conducted by PEMCO Insurance, 55 percent of drivers said the cameras made them think twice before going through a yellow light. Yet drivers surveyed also said they would prefer the state do away with the cameras.

Thirty-one percent of those polled support more cameras in the areas where they drive, while another 31 percent said the number of existing cameras is “about right.” And 29 percent said fewer or no cameras should be installed.

In 2006, Seattle launched an automated traffic camera pilot program and installed cameras at six targeted intersections. Similar programs in other communities also have been implemented, and many are met with strong opposition. For example, Mukilteo residents gathered enough signatures to put the camera issue to a required vote in November. Initiative 2 would require a subsequent public vote before installing each new red-light or speeding camera, and would cap fines at $20.

A significant majority — 64 percent — think that traffic cameras are at least somewhat effective in decreasing traffic violations. Twenty percent of those polled question the cameras’ effectiveness, and just 10 percent think red light cameras aren’t at all effective at decreasing violations.

The poll also shows that drivers are unsure about the consequences of receiving a citation if caught by a red light camera. Forty-five percent said they don’t know if the violation was recorded on their driving history, while 31 percent thought tickets were reported to insurers, and 24 percent thought they were not reported.

According to Washington law, red-light camera violations are similar to parking infractions, which are not part of the registered owner’s driving record.

For its poll, PEMCO asked Washington drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 635 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4.0 percent. For more information, visit www.pemco.com/poll.

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