In Los Angeles, there are 32 intersections outfitted with red light cameras. "The LAPD," reports David Goldstein of the local CBS television affiliate, "claims accidents are down after they installed cameras, but are they telling the whole truth or just trying to make money off motorists? We crunched the numbers and the results may surprise you."
Well, they won't surprise you, maybe, but they're jarring nonetheless:
We wanted to know actual numbers of accidents at red light camera intersections to see if they really went down.
When we asked, the LAPD became very defensive. The sergeant in charge told me in an e-mail, "The city would hope that it is the goal of KCBS/KCAL to discuss the positive aspects of the photo red light program."
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So we filed a public records request. The department charged us more than $500 for a computer run. When we got the numbers back, they told a different story.
We looked at every accident at every red light camera intersection for six months of data before the cameras were installed and six months after.
The final figures? Twenty of the 32 intersections show accidents up after the cameras were installed! Three remained the same and only nine intersections showed accidents decreasing.
The problem? Motorists see the cameras flash, slam on their brakes, and get rear-ended. Helpfully, the LAPD does not measure rear-end crashes in front of red-light intersections; but only the crashes of people who've run a red. Those are down 34 percent, which the department crows about. When confronted with overall intersection data, which tells an unhappier story, the LAPD suddenly says this:
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"It would be improper to draw a correlation between all accidents going up and the red light cameras," a spokesperson from the LAPD said.