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Letters to the Editor

RE: Red-ligt cameras may increase accidents, March 28Recently there has been considerable press coverage of a study released by Barbara Langland-Orban, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Public Health, which argues against the installation of photo enforcement to curb red light running.

As director of the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research, I feel compelled to offer some contrary evidence.

In her latest paper, Langland-Orban cites the National Motorists Association as one of her sources. You owe it to yourself to check out the Web site of the National Motorists Association. You’ll find they would better be named the national scofflaw association. If you check out their Web site you’ll find it sells books like Speeding Excuses That Work, Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court and Win, a full range of radar detectors and a “Guerrilla Ticket Fighter CD.”

Not exactly a credible source.

Her article reports the results of a yearlong study, but it was really a synthesis of other studies. Her article correctly notes that there are many engineering countermeasures that can affect crashes at signalized intersections, including assuring signal head visibility, selecting appropriate yellow-light time intervals, use of an all-red clearance interval, and others.

These measures are important and are included in recommended practice by traffic engineering practitioners. While focusing on a couple of contrary studies and citing the aforementioned National Motorists Association, she neglects to include in her synthesis the many studies that support the effectiveness of red light-running cameras.

A recent study at Iowa State University showed dramatic reductions in both violations and crashes after the installation of red light cameras for both rear-end crashes and for right angle crashes. She also omits discussion of the National Academy’s Transportation Research Board report on the impact of red light camera enforcement on crash experience, which did a comprehensive review of many studies done across the country. They concluded that a majority of jurisdictions that have implemented camera enforcement reported downward trends in red light running violations and crashes – especially the more severe types.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the 15,000-member Institute of Transportation Engineers endorse the proper implementation of photo enforcement, which includes site-by-site studies and implementation of other engineering countermeasures, oversight of photo enforcement by public agencies and a strong public education program. Driving on our roads is a privilege, and we shouldn’t hesitate to ticket those who violate basic rules of the road – notably failure to stop at a red traffic light – which endangers all of us.

Edward A. Mierzejewski, Ph.D., PE Director, Center for Urban Transportation Research