Red light cameras cut accidents

December 3, 2008 4:11:35 PM PST
For more than two years cameras at dozens of Houston intersections have captured drivers as they ran red lights both intentionally and accidentally. But have they made things safer?[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The study was conducted by the state, and surveyed red light cameras specifically for intersections in communities throughout Texas. A lot of those are right here in Houston. The results, according to this study, show that red light cameras appear to work.

In the controversy over red light cameras, Houston attorney Pearson Grimes doesn't mince words, after representing many clients who were seriously hurt by red light runners.

He said, "An 18-year-old guy was going along, minding his own business. He was a passenger in a truck. A guy came by in a van at a high rate of speed, hit him and he had a traumatic brain injury."

Grimes believes the cameras reduce accidents, and the latest research from the Texas Transportation Institute supports that. In the state wide study, right angle crashes declined by 43% after installation of red light cameras. Although rear end crashes increased slightly by 5%, the overall decrease was 30%. That has prompted former camera opponent council member Melissa Noriega to change her mind.

"All you need is to be T-boned once, or to have somebody you know seriously injured, that you know that this is important," Noreiga said.

The study is good news for Mayor Bill White, who has championed the cameras for years despite vocal opposition from different parts of the community.

"I don't find it surprising that people run fewer red lights when they get caught and that that causes a reduction in collisions," White said.

But among drivers, there are still those who question the existence of these cameras in the first place.

"It begins to, you know, we have freedoms and we have a constant erosion of freedoms," said driver David Underwood. "I think it's maybe one more step where we have cameras everywhere.

City council recently passed an ordinance ruling that you cannot renew your vehicle registration if you have unpaid red light camera tickets.

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