- The Washington Times - Monday, August 2, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Whenever government tries to scare you with statistics, it’s a good idea to hold on to your wallet. Through Aug. 8, local governments will bandy about threatening numbers as part of the “National Stop on Red Week,” an event that purportedly encourages better driving habits at intersections. In reality, the idea is to pick your pocket by promoting red-light cameras.

The “stop on red” promotions highlight motor-vehicle fatality statistics. For example, 33,963 died in collisions last year. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in the latest available 2008 figures, estimated that 762 of the annual road deaths involved red-light running. In isolation, these numbers are enough to make one want to stay at home to avoid the reckless red-light runners on every corner.

What the scaremongers aren’t telling you is that our highways have never been safer. Accidents are at an all-time low, which is a remarkable fact given how much time we spend in our cars. Americans drive about 3 trillion miles annually - the equivalent of a trip to Pluto and back every day of the year. While any road deaths are certainly unfortunate, the fact remains that a car is a safer place to be than the home.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41,420 people died in their own residences from suicides, homicides and accidents in 2005. In fact, more died from bed-related accidents than collisions related to red-light running. A total of 1,194 died from falling off their mattress or suffocating in their sleep. Other unlikely household hazards include the humble bathtub, which claimed 315 lives. Stairs claimed 1,690. Ladders, 425. An additional 278 died after falling out of a chair or other furniture.

Funny how there isn’t a National Bed and Furniture Safety Week, but there’s one for red lights. It’s fairly obvious that’s because there’s money for local and state governments, private contractors and insurance companies in red-light cameras. That’s why this annual public-relations blitz was created. For years, the FHWA website offering tips for setting up “stop on red” events told local governments to “contact Christopher Galm at the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running at 202/828-9100” for more information. As The Washington Times previously reported, that number rings the public relations group Blakey-Agnew, which, at the time the material appeared, was a firm on the payroll of the major red-light camera outfits.

As the Virginia Department of Transportation showed in a 2007 report, accidents increased 29 percent at the commonwealth’s intersections that had robotic cameras ticketing drivers. These devices make streets less safe, not more safe. Getting rid of intersection cameras, then, is the right way to kick off a “stop on red” week that focuses on saving lives.

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