A comprehensive study of crashes at intersections finds the numbers of wrecks and deaths steadily falling nationwide over the past five years. David Kelly, executive director of National Coalition for Safer Roads, attributes much of the progress to something that has yet to appear in Nebraska — red light cameras.
“The rate of people getting tickets in red light fatal crashes was down dramatically,” Kelly says. “That is probably the single factor that is determining what is happening at intersections. We know that there are fewer people running red lights and getting tickets and that is driving the decrease down in fatalities at intersections.”
While no Nebraska communities are using the technology yet, the Omaha suburb of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is using the cameras — and is reaping big profits. Another Iowa city, Davenport, issued 40-thousand red light camera citations last year and raked in more than a million dollars.
The study found Nebraska’s death rate at intersections in the past five years ranged from as few as seven in 2008 to as many as 20 in 2006.
“Red light cameras are a proven, effective countermeasure for law enforcement to use,” Kelly says. “They make sense to use where you know you have an intersection that has a high volume of crashes where you have a lot of people who are running the red lights where it is a dangerous driving behavior.”
While the cameras are clearly a benefit, he notes they shouldn’t be the only tool police are using to make intersections more safe.
“Law enforcement needs to be out there visibly manning intersections, making sure people aren’t (running red lights),” Kelly says. “You can’t have a law enforcement program that is solely using cameras. You have to have a combination of both and you have to give law enforcement every opportunity and every tool to enforce the laws.”
He notes, two-thirds of the people who are killed in intersection crashes aren’t in the vehicle that runs the red light. They’re pedestrians, bicyclists and people in the other cars that had the right of way. Kelly is the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Link to the full report: