Legislators have fled Albany for a well-deserved, two-week break. As transportation and pedestrian safety advocates have sifted through the recently-passed budget during the lull, an important discovery has come to light: each county on Long Island has received the go-ahead to install 50 more red light cameras.
To this point, the technology has been successful on Long Island. In 2009, New York State authorized Nassau and Suffolk to install and operate 50 cameras each as part of a “demonstration program,” and a Newsday headline from late 2011 summarizes the program’s progress well: “Report: Red-Light Cameras Reduce Crashes.” According to a Nassau County Traffic Safety Board report, the cameras reduced accidents by an average of 12-16% at 40 intersections under study (10 were left out because of insufficient data). Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has acknowledged the cameras’ effectiveness.
The cameras save lives because red light running is highly dangerous—the crashes that result from ignored traffic signals tend to combine speed and right-angle (“T-bone”) impacts, which lead to a high number of injuries and deaths. According to a recent report, red light running resulted in 113,000 injuries and 676 fatalities in the U.S. in 2009, and the costs of such irresponsible driving fall disproportionately on innocent victims: the report found that nearly two thirds of those deaths were passengers, other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
As Nassau’s data suggests, these are preventable tragedies. Across the country, red light cameras have been shown to dramatically reduce the number of vehicles running red lights; the aforementioned study found that fatal red light crash rates were reduced by 24 percent in 14 cities that introduced red light cameras. As of 2010, over 500 cities were using this technology.