January 26, 2012 | 9:21am
Everyone knows red light cameras suck. But now a new study from the University of South Florida indicates that they might actually be dangerous and lead to an increase in red-light-running fatality rates in cities that use them.
The research, published in the Florida Public Health Review, tore apart a study released last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety -- an industry group funded by insurance companies -- that said red light cameras could have prevented 815 deaths if installed nationwide.
The USF researchers raised several concerns with they way in which the industry group collected and analyzed the data. "Our review reveals the 2011 IIHS study is logically flawed and violates basic scientific research methods that are required for a study's findings to be valid," the USF researchers wrote. "It has neither internal nor external validity. More importantly, the IIHS did not fully explain the results of its analysis."
After analyzing the data in a way that's not logically flawed, the USF team concluded that cities using red light cameras had a 25 percent higher rate of red-light-running fatalities when compared with cities not using them.
Among the concerns
with the original study is the "dissimilarity between the cities chosen to represent camera enforcement and the camera-free cities." Many of the camera-free cities had few or zero red-light-running fatalities, making it impossible for there to be a reduction in accidents in a before-and-after comparison.
The motive for the IIHS to present data favorable to red light cameras is simple:
Tickets from red light cameras can help drive up insurance rates.
"In Florida, a state insurance specialist explained that RLC tickets can be used in underwriting, similar to other tickets, to increase a driver's automobile insurance rate, even though the tickets do not add points to a driver's license," the USF researchers wrote.
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