Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Red light cameras may help to reduce rear-end collisions

The findings of a 2017 university study indicated that drivers benefit from a longer grace period when approaching an intersection in which the light is turning red.

The study found that red light camera enforcement is instrumental in helping to reduce vehicle crashes, including common accidents like rear-end collisions.

The dilemma zone

Researchers from the Northwestern University Transportation Center studied the red light camera program in Chicago. In their 2017 report, they referred to a “dilemma zone” defined as the point where motorists have to make a split-second decision when coming to an intersection where the light is changing. They must decide whether they should go through the red light or if there is time enough to stop safely. The researchers recommended that the “enforcement threshold” be extended from 0.1 to 0.3 seconds.

Extension benefits

The report showed that because of the red light camera program, there was a reduction of 19 percent in turning and side-angle collisions. Injury crashes decreased by 10 percent, and the researchers also cited a “spillover effect,” a name they gave to safer driving practices at intersections without red light cameras. The study showed an increase of 14 percent in rear-end collisions, but researchers felt that instituting a longer grace period after a light turns red will eventually help to reduce this kind of crash.

Additional impact

As of May 2018, 422 communities across the country use red light camera programs, and only 10 states currently prohibit them. The technology that makes the red light camera program work in Chicago has applications in other situations, such as, for example, to catch a motorist who drives through a stop sign or passes a stopped school bus. Injuries from rear-end or side-impact crashes can be surprisingly serious. It is a good idea to remember how fast a crash can happen. If the red light camera program makes even a small contribution toward lowering the statistics, it has more than done its job.

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