Newspaper article: Rear-end collisions jump at red-light camera intersections in West Palm Beach

 

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/rear-end-collisions-jump-a...

By Charles Elmore Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 10:11 p.m. Monday, May 24, 2010

Posted: 5:15 p.m. Monday, May 24, 2010

Rear-end collisions more than doubled and accidents increased overall in the first 70 days of red-light cameras in West Palm Beach compared to the same period of 2009, traffic records reviewed by The Palm Beach Post show.

In the name of boosting safety, not revenues, West Palm Beach issued 2,675 camera fines worth a third of a million dollars in March alone.

But at the three city intersections from Feb. 21, when fines began, through May 1, The Post found:

--Rear-end collisions increased to five from two. Rear-end accidents sometimes go up with cameras because anxious drivers are more likely to stop abruptly.

--Overall accidents increased to seven from six.

--The only injury in either period came under cameras, in a rear-end crash in March 2010. The injury was "non-incapacitating," according to records supplied by cities and compiled in Palm Beach County's accident database.

City officials did not dispute the data but said it was too soon to draw meaningful conclusions.

"A larger sample size is needed to make any determinations about the program's effect on accidents," said city spokesman Peter Robbins.

Advocates for a law passed this spring giving state authorization for the cameras said the whole point was to increase safety - and there was no time to lose.

"We've got to do something," said state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, during the legislative session that ended in April.

The losing side in the debate contended another motive is in play. Motorist group AAA pointed out a private camera contractor working with West Palm Beach and several other cities, American Traffic Solutions of Arizona, is partly owned by Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs, which gained control of two ATS board seats in 2008.

"It's more about the money than it is traffic safety," said Kevin Bakewell, a vice president with AAA in Tampa who unsuccessfully urged Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the state law.

In West Palm Beach, a barrage of fines dwarfed the total number of wrecks, yet accidents still increased. The city issued 1,337.5 citations per crash in the first full month of fines, March. There were two documented accidents in that month at the three city intersections with red-light cameras: Australian Avenue at Banyan Boulevard, Belvedere Road at Parker Avenue, and Summit Boulevard at Parker. By comparison, there was one crash at those intersections in January, the last full month without fines.

The state law that takes effect July 1 increases to $158 from $125 the standard fine mailed to car owners, but takes $70 to $100 of each fine for the state. Local governments share the rest with camera vendors.

The state acted in response to lawsuits challenging local authority over cameras, but West Palm Beach had already become the first city in Palm Beach County to issue fines with red-light cameras. More than half a dozen cities and the county are poised to proceed with cameras of their own, and their public justification in each case has been safety.

Palm Beach County plans to put cameras at 10 intersections because research in other states such as Virginia tends to show at least a moderate reduction in side-angle crashes with cameras, even if rear-end crashes sometimes go up, said traffic division director Dan Weisberg. A 2007 study in Virginia found rear-end collisions increased 27 percent after red-light cameras were installed, while red-light running crashes decreased 42 percent.

In the end, cameras are just one more way to enforce existing law, he said.

"If a cop saw someone run a red light and gave them a ticket, no one would bat an eye," Weisberg said. ""Why is the camera a big deal?"

One contentious issue with cameras, though, has been how strictly to enforce slow--and-go right turns on red - illegal on the books, but not typically written up by a cop in person unless particularly aggressive or dangerous.

After scores of complaints, West Palm Beach has since offered refunds for two-thirds of its March fines. The city decided April 5 to stop enforcing slow-rolling right turns on red. Even Mayor Lois Frankel got nabbed in a right-turn case, initially indicating she planned to fight it but later saying she would donate the fine to charity.

"When we saw the number of right-on-red citations that were being issued and the amount of money that was associated with these citations, we decided to stop issuing the right-on-red citations altogether and refund the money of those who had been cited," city spokesman Robbins said.

"The cameras are a well-intended effort to make our roads and intersections safer, and were never intended to become a game of 'gotcha' with motorists. We recognized very quickly that the right-on-red citations did not represent nearly as big a safety issue as people driving straight through the intersections, and that's why we made the common-sense decision to change our program and refund the money of those who had paid violations for right-on-red turns."

West Palm Beach initially announced fines would be issued at five intersections, but permitting issues held up cameras at Australian Avenue intersections with Belvedere and 25th Street. Before Crist signed the law, city officials were also hampered by legal considerations from placing cameras on state roads, which are often larger and feature heavier traffic.

Will West Palm Beach move ahead with more cameras? The latest indication seems to be no.

"We do not currently have plans to expand the program, but we will continue to monitor it and review the data to determine if any changes are needed," Robbins said.

--
Maps -> Wife -> Garmin 12XL -> StreetPilot 2610 -> Nuvi 660 (blown speaker) -> Nuvi 3790LMT

Shocked!

Shocked I am that people slam on their brakes rather than risk getting a ticket.

If you have every driven in

If you have every driven in FL you will find tailgaters every where.You can look in your mirror and think someone you don't know is in the back seat.It doesn't matter red light or stopping quick to avoid something or someone.Following to close is the problem.

--
Charlie. Nuvi 265 WT and Nuvi 2597 LMT. Android Here WeGo - Offline Maps & GPS.

statistics

I don't like red light cameras as much as the next guy, but this sounds like sensational journalism. The reporter obviously didn't do his homework here. Traffic accident rates vary month to month, and there's no proof that this increase in accidents is statistically significant.

Surprise - NOT

I watch the goings on in MD at Redlight Cameras. Tentative drivers are made even more tentative. They stop immediately on yellow no matter what! I have taken to increasing my distance to the car followed at red-light intersections for obvious reasons.

Fred

Reflex

I think it is more of a reflex that people would try to stop at a red light camera by hitting the brakes hard if they know that there is a red light camera at the intersection and risk getting rear-ended. Yeah there is supposed to be a large enough gap between you and the car behind but here in NYC you are lucky to have a few feet gap.

Unintended consequences

Just like many of the laws put on the books, this one has unforeseen and unintended consequences. Maybe a rear-end is better than a T-bone (you choose), but both can hurt a lot.

Red light runners need to be curbed, but I'm not sure the cameras are the right tool, at least not as they are being used.

I believe the cameras are more for revenue generation than pure safety reasons not unlike the push for "better health" through more taxing of soft drinks, potato chips and tanning parlors.

Changing traffic and light patterns to smooth out the flow and reduce the irritations of inconsistent lights, would probably reduce these types of accidents more than threats to your pocketbook.

--
NUVI 2595 & 2599

fl drivers tail gate

tailgaters are worst in FL or using the cell phones or text mess while driving their cars

when we left FL in '91

hojo0071 wrote:

tailgaters are worst in FL or using the cell phones or text mess while driving their cars

The worst problems were snowbirds clogging the restaurants and the "blue hairs" peeking between the steering wheel and the top of the dash in their Caddies and Lincolns. But then we didn't go near Orlando or Miami without severe trepidations.

--
ɐ‾nsǝɹ Just one click away from the end of the Internet

Wow!!!!

2,675 tickets issued in March alone. Sounds to me like there are many red light runners down there. I think they should install more cameras to catch all the others...I am not a total RLC fan but it sounds like they need them..this article seems a little bias...one months worth of data is not grounds to prove one way or another. Sounds to me like they need to issue tickets for following to close.

--
Bobby....Garmin 2450LM

There are laws against....

There are laws against "following too close" (which I still call "tailgating" even though that terms has been taken over by football fans.

Various studies point to "following too close" as the primary cause of auto accidents (not speed, nit DUI). This makes sense based on what I observe while driving. I personally have never seen a rear end collision at a red-light, but have seen thousands on the roads.

People are just in a hurry, so they crowd the car in front of them thinking that this will get them to their destination more quickly when mathematically it actually slows all traffic down.

Or, someone is on their cell phone and get too close to the car in front of them because they are not paying attention to the distance.

So, when red-light opponents put forth an objection to cameras because they say it makes them more likely to get rear-ended (and can also claim that they do not speed), perhaps they should watch their rearview mirror more closely and let the tailgaters go past.

I agree

Ed Gcom wrote:

I believe the cameras are more for revenue generation than pure safety reasons not unlike the push for "better health" through more taxing of soft drinks, potato chips and tanning parlors.

Changing traffic and light patterns to smooth out the flow and reduce the irritations of inconsistent lights, would probably reduce these types of accidents more than threats to your pocketbook.

I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis.

--
dja24 - garmin nuvi 200W, etrex vista, etrex vista Cx

good idea

dja24 wrote:
Ed Gcom wrote:

.....Changing traffic and light patterns to smooth out the flow ........

Good idea. It makes sense, it is inexpensive and easy to do, but it will not replace the camera. Cameras make too much money.

Got Me?

I might have tripped a camera but probably will never know. I was towing an RV going through Red-Light Camera Alley. Was going slow so I didn't think I would make the light so slammed on brakes when the light turned yellow. Only slowed enough to guarantee the light was red when I went through.

Fortunately, the trailer still had temp tags and MD doesn't seem to be able to track those, so if I did set off the camera it probably won't amount to anything.

--
><> Glenn <>< Garmin nüvi 2598

Stats are lies

My statistics professor always said when someones starts quoting statistics they are about to lie to you. They can be easily manipulated to show what you want them to.

--
Magellan Maestro 4250, T-Mobile G1 with Google Maps, iPaq with TomTom, and a Tapwave Zodiac with TomTom and Mapopolis

The article only looked at

The article only looked at two months worth of data; that's not a statistically significant period and the actual numbers are probably random fluctuations.

How do you know?

Zhukov wrote:

The article only looked at two months worth of data; that's not a statistically significant period and the actual numbers are probably random fluctuations.

Why is two months not statistically significant? Two months is actually a pretty long time. Unless you have actual traffic data, you can't say whether it is statistically significant or not.

--
dja24 - garmin nuvi 200W, etrex vista, etrex vista Cx

It is the number of "things" in statistics that determine

[quote=dja24
Why is two months not statistically significant? Two months is actually a pretty long time. Unless you have actual traffic data, you can't say whether it is statistically significant or not.

It is the number of "things" in statistics that determine significance - in this case the number of accidents before and after the installation of the RLC.

The statistics point to the

The statistics point to the same conclusions in Illinois, and those statistics are being discredited as well. If the numbers showed that the cameras did improve safety, the statistics used would be "bulletproof."

I disagree, sort of

It's not the number of accidents that determine the significance, it's the number of opportunities (traffic level) compared to the number of accidents before and after. Again, you need to have the real data to make that determination.

--
dja24 - garmin nuvi 200W, etrex vista, etrex vista Cx

Statistics

It's been well documented that statistics can be used to prove just about anything especially when there is bias when creating them. We need to first admit to ourselves that these cameras' primary purpose has never been about safety; revenue has always been the driving force behind them. Wherever these cameras haven't been profitable, they have been taken down in most cases.

dja24, you are correct

dja24 wrote:

It's not the number of accidents that determine the significance, it's the number of opportunities (traffic level) compared to the number of accidents before and after. Again, you need to have the real data to make that determination.

You have made a good point that i should have addressed in my comment on the number of "things". There indeed could be situations, where, for whatever reasons, the number of "opportunities" were different before and after the installation of cameras. This could skew the comparisons and some sort of "normalization" would be needed to adjust for the change in circumstances.

Also, as we have seen in other articles presented by those opposed to cameras on emotional grounds, there are often an increase in rear-end collisions immediately after installation. This is usually due to the uncertainty about the length of the yellow light causing one driver to stop abruptly and another driver who had to have been following too close not being able to brake in time to avoid hitting the car which stopped.

In my area, the problem has become that the cameras have not been generating the anticipated revenue because drivers have become aware of the camera locations and have driven appropriately. The officials, when discussing the fall in revenue, are nevertheless pleased because the "education" of the drivers is reducing injuries and property damage.

Smoothing Out The Traffic Flow

Ed Gcom wrote:

Changing traffic and light patterns to smooth out the flow and reduce the irritations of inconsistent lights, would probably reduce these types of accidents more than threats to your pocketbook.

There's one extra long stretch of Ogden Avenue here in the Chicago western suburbs where many lights are so finely tuned to one another, that one can drive several miles and not hit a red at all - as long as the average flow is close to or slightly faster than the 35 MPH speed limit. All it takes is one or two cars in a pack that speeds up the pack, or slows it down, then the pack has to stop at a light. Over the years, I've noticed that most of the drivers on this stretch of road have learned this instinctively, and just go with the flow even if 35 seems awfully slow. There's hardly a red light camera on this stretch either. Proof that traffic smoothing can be done with the proper programming.

On the other hand I've driven around Rosemont which is littered with red-light cameras, and on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I've had to stop at practically every light I drove up to, never "syncing-up" to a pattern while going at the speed limit.

The Other Problem With Older Florida Drivers..

A lot of the older Florida drivers will (as they approach a "GREEN" light), slow down and apply their brake about a quarter of a block or so before getting to the intersection and then NOT resume the posted speed until they're about a quarter block past.. light, after light, after light.

Nuvi1300WTGPS

--
I'm not really lost.... just temporarily misplaced!

rlc

dja24 wrote:

It's not the number of accidents that determine the significance, it's the number of opportunities (traffic level) compared to the number of accidents before and after. Again, you need to have the real data to make that determination.

Maybe someone should provide the statistics that are used in these studies, to show how they are reached, so things might make a little more sense to everyone.

Rear-end collisions jump at red-light camera

I agree, lets see the stat's that are proven, and the method of how they are reached.

--
Using Android Based GPS.The above post and my sig reflects my own opinions, expressed for the purpose of informing or inspiring, not commanding. Naturally, you are free to reject or embrace whatever you read.