Strong Red Light Camera Support - image of red traffic light

Like other government policies and programs, camera enforcement requires acceptance and support among the public as well as elected officials. 

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), acceptance of cameras always has been strong. A 2011 IIHS survey in 14 big cities with longstanding red light camera programs found that two-thirds of drivers support their use (McCartt & Eichelberger, 2012). 

A 2012 IIHS survey conducted in Washington, D.C., which has an extensive camera program, found that 87 percent of residents support red light cameras (Cicchino et al., 2014).

Programs have the best chance of earning community support if they are designed to improve safety by modifying driver behavior and not to generate revenue.

In 2018, IIHS teamed up with AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the National Safety Council to create a red light camera checklist for communities. The checklist provides practical instructions for planning, implementing and evaluating red light camera programs, including steps to help communities build and maintain public support.

First steps include careful assessment of intersections where red light running is a problem. Communities need to ensure that steps are taken to evaluate road design and signal timing.

The checklist recommends that policymakers organize a community advisory committee made up of stakeholders such as law enforcement, victim advocates, school officials and residents to make suggestions on the development of a program.

To the extent feasible, revenue generated by the program should be allocated toward traffic safety programs.

In the long term, communities should plan for regular program evaluation based on crash and infraction data. The guide discourages simple before-and-after comparisons of crashes because the numbers can be skewed by factors such as the ups and downs of the economy. Instead, comparisons should be made using proper control intersections that are not subject to the known “spillover effect,” whereby crashes are reduced at intersections throughout a community, not just at the camera sites.

The recommendations are based on input from law enforcement and community leaders and on best practice guidelines published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which is funded by state departments of transportation and administered by the Transportation Research Board.

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