Location:
TRAFFIC SIGNS AND SIGNALS; TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS;
Scope:
Background;

OLR Research Report


August 10, 2011

 

2011-R-0285

TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT CAMERAS

By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for information regarding bills in Connecticut to allow cameras to be used to enforce traffic laws at intersections (your request referred to installing cameras at stop signs; most of the legislation in Connecticut has dealt with cameras at intersections with traffic lights). You also wanted to know about the effectiveness of such cameras that have been installed in other states.

SUMMARIES

Bills were introduced in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 to permit municipalities to install cameras at intersections to enforce traffic laws. In addition, one 2009 bill would have required the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop and implement a program for installing traffic cameras at major intersections. Most of these bills were referred to the Transportation Committee, which favorably reported bills in 2009, 2010, and 2011. None of the bills reached the House or Senate floor.

There have been a number of studies of the effectiveness of red light camera systems. This report discusses four such studies, published between 2003 and 2011. The studies have generally found that the systems reduce angle crashes, such as those that occur when a vehicle runs a red light and crashes into the side of another vehicle. On the other hand, the studies have generally found that the systems were associated with an increase in rear-end crashes, which typically occur when a driver stops suddenly at a red light with a camera system. The former crashes tend to be more serious than the latter and the studies have generally found that the systems have a modest positive economic effect.

PROPOSED LEGISLATION IN CONNECTICUT

2007

HB 6378 would have authorized the installation of traffic cameras at major intersections. The bill was referred to the Transportation Committee, which took no action on it.

2009

sSB 149 would have established a two-year pilot program for New Haven to implement and evaluate the use of automated image-based enforcement of traffic light violations at up to 12 signalized intersections in the city. It would have established (1) procedures for locally adjudicating any citations issued and (2) a fine of up to $100 for red light violations prosecuted through the pilot program. New Haven would have been authorized to retain one-half of the fine and been required to remit the other half to the state treasurer for deposit in the Special Transportation Fund. A sworn police officer would have been required to review any recorded images produced under the program before any citation could be issued. The bill required New Haven to bear all the program's costs. The Transportation Committee gave the bill a favorable change of reference to the Planning and Development Committee, where the motion to favorably report it failed.

HB 5035 would have required DOT to develop and implement a program for installing traffic cameras at major intersections and other locations the DOT commissioner determined to need additional enforcement activities. The bill was referred to the Transportation Committee, which took no action on it. Similarly, HB 5258 would have allowed municipalities to develop and implement a program for installing automatic traffic safety camera systems at major intersections and other locations determined by the local police department to need additional enforcement activities. This bill was referred to the Public Safety Committee, which took no action on it.

2010

SB 345 would have allowed any municipality, with the authorization of its chief executive officer and legislative body, to conduct a two-year pilot program to install and use automated devices, at not more than 12 intersections selected by the municipality, to enforce the laws governing traffic control lights. The municipality would have been required to pay all of the program's costs. The Transportation Committee favorably reported the bill and referred it to the Judiciary Committee, which took no action on it.

2011

sSB 706 would have authorized municipalities with a population of more than 60,000 to use “automated traffic enforcement safety devices” (red light cameras) to record vehicles that illegally drive through red lights. These cameras would have been required to record a still photograph, video image, or combination of these, of the rear of a motor vehicle, or a vehicle being towed by another vehicle, including an image of the rear license plate. The cameras also would have been required to indicate on at least one image the date, time, and place where the action occurred.

The bill would have specified how towns could operate and enforce a red light camera program, established legal defenses to charges based on images the cameras recorded, barred the use of these images for certain purposes, and required that towns report data they collect to the Program Review and Investigations Committee.

The bill was favorably reported by the Transportation and Planning and Development Committees. The Senate then referred the bill to the Judiciary Committee, which took no action on it.

HB 6179 would have allowed a municipality to adopt and enforce an ordinance to regulate the placement and use of intersection safety systems within its municipal boundaries. Under the bill the enabling ordinance could provide a fine for a violation of its provisions. The fine revenue would have been used to defray the cost of the installation, operation, and maintenance of the system. Seventy percent of any remaining funds would have been allocated to the municipality and the rest to the General Fund. The bill would have barred the (1) recording of a violation under the program on a driving record, (2) use of a violation to determine vehicle insurance rates, or (3) assessment of points under the point system by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bill was initially referred to the Planning and Development Committee, which referred it to the Transportation Committee, which took no action on the bill.

EFFECTIVENESS

The most recent study on the effectiveness of red light camera systems was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2011. It analyzed fatal crashes in (1) 14 cities with more than 200,000 residents that had red light camera programs during the period 2004-08 but not from 1992 to 1996 and (2) 48 cities without programs during either period. The study compared the citywide per capita rate of fatal red-light-running crashes and the citywide per capita rate of all fatal crashes at signalized intersections during the two study periods. Rate changes then were compared for cities with and without camera programs.

The study found that the average annual rate of fatal red-light-running crashes declined for both study groups, but the decline was larger for cities with the red light camera enforcement programs than for cities without such programs (35% vs. 14%). After controlling for population density and land area, the rate of fatal red light running crashes during 2004-08 for cities with the programs was an estimated 24% lower than what would have been expected without cameras. The rate of all fatal crashes at signalized intersections during 2004-08 for cities with programs was an estimated 17% lower than what would have been expected without cameras. The study is available at www.iihs.org.

A 2007 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council analyzed seven years of crash data from six municipalities and counties in the state that had adopted right light camera systems. It found that the cameras were associated with an increase in rear-end crashes and a decrease in red light running crashes. This study also found that there was significant variation by intersection and by jurisdiction: in one jurisdiction the cameras were associated with an increase in all six crash types that were studied while two other jurisdictions saw decreases in most of these crash types. Taken all together, the study found a modest reduction in the comprehensive crash cost for non-fatal injury crashes. The study is available at http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/2007Virginia.pdf .

A 2005 study of the effectiveness of red light-camera systems prepared for the Federal Highway Administration compared crash data in seven U.S. jurisdictions before and after the installation of these systems. The study analyzed rear-end and right-angle crashes at 132 intersections. It found a decrease in right-angle crashes and increase in rear-end crashes. The study found a modest aggregate crash cost benefit of the systems, since right-angle crashes tend to be more severe than rear-end crashes. The study found that the economic benefits were associated with total entering average annual daily traffic, the ratios of right-angle to rear end crashes, and with the presence of protected left-turn signals. The study is available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/05049/ .

In 2003, the Transportation Research Board (part of the National Academies of Science) published a synthesis of research conducted up until that point on the effectiveness of red light camera systems. It found that while the data were not conclusive, there was a preponderance of evidence indicating that such systems improve the overall safety of intersections where they are used. Angle crashes are usually reduced while in instances some rear-end crashes increase, although to a lesser extent. The literature provided some evidence that there was an improvement in driver behavior at signalized intersections without such systems within a jurisdiction that had adopted the system. The study is available at http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/nchrp_syn_310.pdf.

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