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Insurers back red-light cameras

- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2011

Intersection safety cameras reduce red-light running and save lives. This is the undeniable conclusion of new research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which shows that more than 150 lives were saved in the 14 biggest U.S. cities from 2004 to 2008. Had the cameras been operating in all the large metropolitan areas analyzed by the report, more than 800 lives could have been spared.

The study, released earlier this month, is the most in-depth analysis to date of fatal intersection crashes in cities with red-light cameras. It reaffirms what safety advocates have been saying all along - when the public sees a law being vigorously enforced, they will respect it and drive more safely. It's true with seat-belt laws, and we're not surprised to see the same effects here.

Red-light cameras have become indispensable traffic enforcement and safety tools, helping reduce illegal driving behavior across the country. Researchers have known this for quite some time, but the scope of this study helps us see how the presence of cameras can lower fatality rates.

Too often, complaints from offenders made to pay tickets overshadow the real victims of red-light running - the people they hurt with their dangerous driving. Data show that nearly two-thirds of those who die in intersection crashes are not in the car that ran the red light, but rather innocent pedestrians, bicyclists or occupants of other vehicles.

The most common offenders in red-light running accidents are male drivers under the age of 30 with a prior collision record. These repeat offenders endanger our communities with their unwillingness to change. Cameras keep them accountable, helping reduce red-light running and fatalities.

Regardless what the pessimists say, it is clear that red-light cameras make our streets safer and help keep the public from harm. We need more red-light cameras to supplement current methods of traffic enforcement.

DAVID KELLY

Executive director, National Coalition for Safer Roads

Springfield, Va.

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