Red light camera controversy continues

January 30, 2009 4:30:39 AM PST
There are new details about the controversial red light camera study. Two attorneys claim Houston city officials and police tried to cover up information about traffic accidents at certain intersections around town. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The attorneys claim the city tried to manipulate the outcome, but city leaders say it's just not true. The two attorneys have already filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston in attempts to obtain all the information from a Rice University red light camera study. Now they are saying they still don't have enough of the data they want.

In front of Rice University, attorneys Randall Kallinen and Paul Kubosh once again denounced the study's results. They say the city pressured the author, Rice University professor Bob Stein, not to count accidents that happened farther away than 100 feet from the intersection.

"They picked an arbitrary 100 foot rule," Kallinen said. "That is they will not count rear accidents that are more than 100 feet from the intersection."

Kallinen says an email to the police chief discussing a meeting with Stein proves the point. It initially talks about accidents within 500 feet being counted. That was then lowered to 100 feet, but Professor Stein says that's not what happened.

"They may claim that the emails represent pressure, I consider that scholarly conversation," Stein told us.

Stein points out that the final study actually included rear end accidents within 500 feet, instead of ones occurring within 100 feet.

"Clearly what he did here was read the Internet emails, instead of the final results, which is that we didn't do many of the things that were suggested," Stein said.

But Kubosh and Kallinen say they still believe the entire study is flawed because Professor Stein's wife works for the city. A suggestion that the Houston Police Department says is simply not true.

"The only thing that HPD is interested in and Rice University is interested in is what data is going to give us the best information about the red light camera system,"

The city tells us it is interested in commissioning the university to do a more in-depth study on the red light cameras. The attorneys say the city is not being open and a lawsuit they are bringing will show that.

A study by the Texas Department of Transportation found overall that red light cameras are effective in reducing accidents.

The study released last November found a 30% decrease in crashes in intersections with red light cameras. Side impact crashes, or right-angle collisions, dropped 43% while rear end accidents were up slightly, up by 5%.

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