Chron: Wrecks more than doubled at intersections with at least one red-light camera

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Finally, the study has been released (completely unrelated to that lawsuit, we’re sure), and incredibly, Mayor White and Bob Stein have decided they’re going to sell a different conclusion, saying red light cameras have actually improved public safety: (via the Chron’s Bradley Olsen):

Red-light cameras installed at some of Houston’s most dangerous intersections did not reduce the number of crashes there, according to a long-awaited study the city commissioned on the matter.

In fact, wrecks at intersections with at least one red-light camera more than doubled, the data shows. The analysis examined accident data at intersections that had at least one camera which monitored traffic in one direction, or “approach” of the intersection.

Study authors said the reason for the increase at “monitored approaches” is actually that the city has seen a major uptick in collisions during the past year, one that they believe red-light cameras helped mitigate. In other words, the study, released today, concludes that there were far fewer collisions at intersections with red-light cameras than there otherwise would have been if the cameras had not been installed.

“Collisions are going up all over the city,” said Bob Stein, a Rice University political science professor and one of report’s four authors. “But red-light cameras have held back that increase at approaches where they have been installed.”

Regarding the bolded sentence, read the following from the study:

Although this study supports the idea that that red light cameras have a positive effect in reducing collisions at monitored approaches in comparison with non-monitored approaches, several questions have been raised by these findings. The most important of these is “Why have accidents at non-monitored approaches increased so dramatically in the past year?” As suggested above, these results could be evidence of an increase in collisions across the city. The selection in 2006 of intersections with high rates of collisions could be serving to magnify this effect.

Currently, conclusions on a general increase in collisions across the city are not supportable with available data. Population growth and congestion stand out as possible factors behind slower traffic flow and increased collisions on a citywide level. However, this hypothesis is beyond the scope of this report and will have to be tested with specific data and rigorous analysis.

Just something to consider, as you read MayorWhiteBobStein’s spin:

Mayor Bill White said the findings prove that the red light cameras are making city streets safer.

“The program is proving successful in improving public safety, which has been the goal since the beginning,” White said in a written statement. “We believe the findings and conclusions provide sound evidence of that.”

Or something else.

UPDATE: Kevin and Cory have struggled through the study. Both now need aspirin.


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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.