- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

An editorial in The Washington Times (“Stop for green week,” Aug. 3) dismissed last week’s National Stop on Red Week in the belief that this is a promotion instigated by red-light camera providers. The campaign is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and is supported by many safety advocates and safety organizations. It is one of many efforts undertaken during the year to raise awareness about traffic safety and highlight dangerous behaviors like running red lights.

The editorial criticizes those who cite well-sourced statistics about red-light running as “scaremongers.” One example from Virginia was cited in which crashes increased after a camera was installed. Crashes have increased in the short term in some communities because cameras cause some drivers, who are accustomed to running red lights, to change their behavior and stop. Drivers should always be in control of their vehicle with at least a three-second following distance behind the vehicle in front of them, allowing plenty of time to safely stop at any red light. So when crashes increase after cameras are installed, as in the Virginia example given in the editorial, the root cause is not the camera or the light, but is likely that drivers are following too closely and not driving defensively.

The one example cited in the editorial is not a fair review of the entire body of knowledge or scientific evidence about automated enforcement. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and scientists from many other organizations have carefully examined this issue and issued peer-reviewed scientific analyses. The evidence is clear that in many places across the nation, red-light camera programs, when properly operated, are reducing crashes. More importantly, they are reducing injuries and fatalities.

Preventing intersection crashes is a very important piece of the national strategy to make our roads safer. While the editorial noted the 900 fatalities each year due to red-light running, it did not address the impact that the loss of these 900 people had on their families, friends, their employers or their communities. Each of these tragic deaths was preventable.

So regardless of your view of cameras, surely we can all agree to take one week out of the year to think about our own behavior when approaching intersections. So please remember, yellow means take your foot off the accelerator, cover your brake and prepare to stop. It does not mean speed up to beat the light. And as always, red means stop.

JOHN ULCZYCKI

Group Vice President, Research, Communications and Advocacy

National Safety Council

Itasca, Ill.

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