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Wednesday
Jun292011

Are Red-Light Cameras Causing Accidents?

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It's the "Gotcha!" flash that no driver wants to see after running a red light.  And it's quickly becoming the target of critics who say the cameras may cause drivers to take desperate measures to avoid being caught on film.

Red-light cameras, designed to catch drivers who run lights and endanger others, are now the subject of significant debate because some believe they may cause more harm than good.

It is a controversy that is leading to a red-light camera backlash.  Houston has already voted them out, and now the driving capital of the world, Los Angeles, is on the verge of doing the same.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states have banned red-light cameras.  Several others have passed laws limiting the use of camera enforcement.

There is evidence to support both sides of the debate.  A study this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that in 14 of America's largest cities the cameras have saved 159 lives during a four-year period.

The study also said that if all 99 of the country's largest cities had them installed, 815 lives could have been saved.

On the other side of the debate are statistics that show the cameras also cause accidents.  A 2005 federal study demonstrated that while injuries from right angle or T-bone crashes decreased by 16 percent at red-light camera intersections, injuries from rear-end collisions increased by 24 percent.

The final argument in the debate in Los Angeles may have already been decided by the courts.  The courts have ruled that violations caught on a photo are unenforceable since there is no live witness to testify against an alleged offender.

Nearly half the tickets issued in Los Angeles go unpaid without consequence, leaving the city paying $1.5 million a year for unpopular, if lifesaving cameras.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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