Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Red Light Cameras: No Surprises

The Houston Chronicle reported today that, to no one's surprise:

"In the five months after Houston voters forced city officials to turn off a camera surveillance system that fined motorists for running red lights, traffic accidents at those 50 intersections with 70 cameras have decreased 16 percent, according to recently released data."

But wait: the police told Houstonians during the last election, when we voted to rid ourselves of these cameras, that the cameras "save lives" and "reduce accidents". What happened? They say it's the lack of rain that's making all the difference (hmmm). I say: they weren't being honest with us in the first place. Considering the amount of money the owner of the cameras was getting from the red light tickets, and that the cameras' owner paid for many of the ads in support of keeping the cameras, I'm thinking ... it ain't the weather.

I looked at the data in the chart, and what I find almost as interesting are the stats on the three biggest intersections for accidents. Two of them are at Beechnut and the Beltway, and one is at South Main at the Loop. I drove Beechnut to the Sam and then on to work for five years, and Beechnut from 59 to the Sam is like a racetrack. It's three lanes in each direction, apartments and business lining the street, and yet everyone drives over 50 mph no matter what. Now that I don't have to take that route to work, I wouldn't drive over there if you paid me. I'm not surprised there were a substantial number of accidents there before and after the cameras. Nor am I surprised about the Loop at South Main statistics. That's pretty close to home for me, and again, not a route I want to drive on a regular basis. South Main changes from a highway-like road to a regular street at the Loop, and generally traffic comes north on Main toward the Loop at well over 50 mph. There could be three times the accidents at that intersection than there are now and I wouldn't be shocked.

So, in short, three of the most dangerous intersections in Houston got worse without cameras, and just about every other one got safer. I still think we're better off without them. Good riddance.

No comments: