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Are Iowa’s Red Light Cameras Effective?

The effectiveness of red light cameras is a hotly debated topic in states that use such cameras. Those who support the cameras often argue that the cameras prevent people from running red lights and causing accidents. Those who oppose the cameras often argue that the cameras are ineffective in preventing accidents and are, instead, a way for communities to make money by ticketing people who are seen violating the traffic laws on camera.Red light traffic cameras mounted to a sign post

The Iowa Department of Transportation Weighs In

In 2015, the Iowa Department of Transportation issued its own report about the effectiveness of automated traffic enforcement cameras in six Iowa communities. According to the Iowa Statesman, the agency’s findings with regard to red light cameras are as follows:

  • Cedar Rapids Red Light Cameras: Reduce accidents with varying degrees of success. No recommendations were made to remove red light cameras.
     
  • Council Bluffs Red Light Cameras: Have little to no effect on reducing accidents. It was recommended that one red light camera be removed because crashes remained essentially the same at the intersection of South Expressway and 30th Avenue.
     
  • Davenport: Had mixed results from the use of cameras. It was recommended that one red light camera be removed because of a trend of increased crashes at the intersection of Kimberly Road and Elmore Avenue.
     
  • Des Moines: Overall, there was a reduction in accidents at intersections with red light cameras and no recommendations were made to remove the cameras.
     
  • Muscatine: Generally, there was a reduction in accidents at intersections with red light cameras. There were no recommendations to remove such cameras.
     
  • Sioux City: Overall, there were fewer accdents at intersections after red light cameras installed. However, the cameras at Lewis Boulevard and Outer Drive were recommended for removal because of an incease in accidents there.

While the debate about red light cameras is sure to continue, one thing seems indisputable: red light cameras are not 100 percent effective in preventing accidents. Some serious—and potentially deadly—accidents will continue to occur because drivers will continue to run red lights regardless of the cameras.

Accordingly, we need to do more to raise awareness about the dangers of red light accidents. As we observe National Stop on Red Week during August 2–8, 2015, we encourage you to share this blog post with your friends and family. Let them know that red light cameras are not the only answer to preventing dangerous intersection accidents and encourage them to be cautious when approaching every intersection.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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