CHANDLER, AZ - They are perched along busy intersections throughout the Valley and are often a thorn in the side of drivers. But a new study suggests red light cameras are saving many lives.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the cameras have reduced traffic deaths by 24 percent in 14 of the nation's largest cities that use them.
In fact, the most dramatic drop in deaths occurred in Chandler. According to the study, traffic deaths in the East Valley community are down 79 percent.
"Before they had the cameras here there were more accidents, now since it's in front of my store and I see it, the number of accidents have come down," said Gurinder Giran, owner of the 7 Eleven convenience store at Dobson and Warner roads in Chandler. "As a family person, I'd feel more safe driving at intersections where the cameras are."
The study examined data from 14 cities that introduced red light cameras between 1996 and 2004.
In those cities, the study also noted drops in all fatal crashes at intersections with traffic signals, not just those caused by running red lights.
"We think that they are just paying more attention to intersections as they come up on them because they are more certain that if they violate the red light they will get a ticket," said institute president Adrian Lund.
The institute claims the reduction in fatal crashes means 159 lives have been saved over five years in the cities that were studied. Analysts suggest if all large cities used the cameras, 815 lives could have been saved.
Federal numbers show 676 people were killed and an estimated 113,000 injured in red light crashes in 2009.
Not everyone agrees that red light cameras are an appropriate solution to the problem.
Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union is one of them.
"People have special circumstances that come up and if there is a cop there you could explain to him," he said. "Automated law enforcement in general raised questions about how people in special circumstances are treated fairly."
Shawn Dow, co-founder of CameraFRAUD.com agrees.
"When we got the study we immediately started noticing flaws in it," said Dow. "These cameras are causing accidents, they're lowering yellow light times and they're putting Arizona residents at risk in order to make money."
“I can’t think of any good reason to run a red light,” said David Ramer of the Chandler Police Department.
Ramer says none of the researchers consulted the City of Chandler in the study, but he says the study may be on to something.
“We have noticed a decline in collisions at intersections in the city,” he said.
Ramer attributes that not only to red light cameras, but to the use of widened streets and speed boards-those speed sensing signs that display your speed for all to see.
The Loop 202 and Loop 101 may also be contributing to a decline in traffic collisions Ramer says, because the freeways are reducing the traffic volume on surface streets.
Meanwhile, the cameras continue to click away.
Some studies suggest red light cameras cause accidents, especially rear-end collisions as drivers get nervous and slam on their breaks.
What do you think? Sound off by leaving a comment below.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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