Do Philadelphia Red Light Traffic Cameras Cut Down on Car Accidents?

Red light traffic cameras seem to be popping up all over the place. These days, not only can they be found in densely populated cities but also in suburban townships. And even though it’s been years since these cameras were first put to use in Philadelphia, one question still remains: Do red light traffic cameras actually cut down on car accidents? A car accident lawyer in Philadelphia can shed some light on this…

Not a “Yes” or “No” Question

There does not seem to be a straight yes or no answer to this question. You see, red light traffic cameras have been credited with reducing certain accidents and increasing others.

T-bone accidents are down. T-bone accidents, which occur when a vehicle moving through an intersection crashes into the side of a crossing vehicle, have seen significant decreases, according to a 2007 report released by Iowa State’s Center for Transportation Research and Education. This means drivers are not blasting through red lights nearly as often.

Rear-end accidents are up. After analyzing approximately 132 red light camera locations, the Federal Highway Administration concluded that, on average, such traffic cameras lead to a 15% increase in rear-end car accidents. This could mean that more drivers are stopping suddenly to avoid being caught by cameras. Be wary of this practice: Any car accident lawyer in Philadelphia can tell you that rear-end accidents are notorious for causing whiplash injury.

So, when it comes to question of whether or not red light traffic cameras effectively reduce accidents, it is difficult to arrive at a concrete answer. However, there is another angle to consider…

The ‘Big Brother’ Effect

There is a theory regarding red light traffic camera use which is keeping some advocates optimistic. It is the idea of the “spillover”. In short, the theory of the spillover suggests that a few well-placed red light traffic cameras can increase safe driving at all intersections, even those not equipped with cameras. The hope here is that a fear of being caught on tape will deter bad driving habits everywhere, not just on certain roads. Unfortunately, the limitations of traffic research currently make it difficult to validate this theory.