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Transportation

Why Red Light Cameras Have Big Safety Benefits But Little Support

Corruption and rear-end crashes complicate what should be a clear public health case.
Red light cameras such as this one in Chicago have come under intense scrutiny.
Red light cameras such as this one in Chicago have come under intense scrutiny.REUTERS/Jim Young

The last we heard from Houston about its red light cameras, in 2011, the city had not only shut them off but outlawed them—a culmination of months of rage against the machines. Over at Streetsblog, Angie Schmitt reveals the safety legacy of that decision, and it isn’t pretty. Police numbers show an astonishing 116 percent increase in total crashes and an 84 percent rise in major crashes at former camera locations from 2010-2014, compared with the four prior years when the cameras were up and running.

The Houston PD’s before-and-after comparison isn’t perfect, lacking context about broader traffic safety trends across the city. But the basic gist echoes loads of other evidence pointing to the safety benefits of red light cameras.