Monday, April 15, 2019

The Unintended Hazards Of Red-Light Cameras

Danny De Gracia did a good job on this consequential topic of traffic safety, red-light running cameras. My fuller opinion of RLR cameras is below.

The correct way for improving road safety requires equal amounts of Engineering, Education and Enforcement. Most cities do basic engineering, a trifle of education and heavy enforcement; that’s what politicians (mostly lawyers) do. The result is ever increasing crashes and fatalities, despite the large safety improvements of vehicles and intelligent traffic signals. Vulnerable users such as pedestrians and bicyclists are most at risk; this is particularly true for Honolulu with its perennially suitable weather for walking and biking; and its ever increasing number of elderly motorists and pedestrians.

A recent study published at the journal of the American Society of Civil Engineers was titled “If you are serious about safety, measure it.” It reveals the dearth of traffic safety information at most US cities. The cities have no idea about pedestrian and bicycle movements and little to no idea about crash causality. They are not serious about safety, and Honolulu leads the pack with no studies but many political pronouncements of solutions. Effective traffic safety recommendations come only after detailed engineering analysis. Locally, the problem is addressed by the mayor, police and the legislators (i.e., their lobbyist advisors.)

Red light running is a complex solution that marginally addresses a city’s traffic safety problems. In some locales it generates more crashes as many motorists make early and sudden stops at the onset of the yellow light. Its complexity and ability to generate hundreds of citations per hour become both a large expense to the city and a large “tax” burden to its residents and visitors. These systems tend to cite ordinary drivers who cross the stop bar of an intersection a fraction of a second after the onset of the red light. These systems have no special ability to cite speeders, and intoxicated and distracted drivers who are the typical culprits in crashes. They also do not provide any extra protection to bicyclists and pedestrians.