Red light cameras get a mixed review on safety

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Here’s a local media outlet that has been keeping track of some red light camera stats: KPRC-2 has been keeping a tally of accident numbers at intersections with red light cameras. After one year, the conclusion is mixed:

We discovered at many intersections the cameras appear to be working.

On the west side, the intersection of Bellaire and Wilcrest had 23 accidents the year before red-light cameras. The year after, there were only 10. That’s a 57 percent drop.

At Richmond and Dunvale, there were 16 accidents before red-light cameras. There were just eight after red-light cameras were installed. Accidents dropped 50 percent.

And I-10 east and Uvalde, the accidents went from 10 down to six — a 40 percent decrease.

“We’ve seen a dramatic decline,” said Houston Mayor Bill White.

White said the city’s numbers show the total amount of accidents at all 50 intersections with red light cameras dropped from 529 to 345 this year compared to last year. “That is a dramatic decrease,” White said. “It was cut down by a third.”

But not all the intersections recorded decreases in accidents:

But we discovered intersections FM 1960 and Tomball Parkway tell a much different story. And it’s one the mayor can’t explain. There were five accidents at the intersection before red-light cameras and 16 after. That’s a 220 percent increase in accidents.

At Gessner and Beechnut in southwest Houston, accidents increased from six to 11 — up 83 percent.

In Clear Lake, at the intersection of Bay Area Boulevard and El Camino Real, accidents jumped from 16 before red-light cameras to 22 after they were installed. That’s a 38 percent increase.

Out of the 18 intersections we tracked, 10 had fewer accidents, seven had more wrecks, and one intersection’s accident numbers stayed the same.

Mayor White goes on to say the city has commissioned a study to figure it all out.

The first thing the city should do is make sure all engineering issues are dealt with at these intersections. That could be a big part of the problem, and could be a reason for the dramatic differences in accident rates.

RELATED: Matt Stiles notes on the City Hall blog that red light cameras may not be a “cash cow,” after all.

We’ll have to wait and see what Houston’s numbers look like.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.