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Red-light cameras stir controversy despite the good they do

New York residents may or may not support the use of red-light cameras at certain intersections. Nationwide, there has been controversy over these devices, and as a result, fewer communities are installing them. In 2012, 533 communities had them, but by mid-2018, that number fell to 421.

First, the benefits of red-light cameras have been revealed through studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and other safety organizations. IIHS data shows that cameras can reduce red-light running violations by some 40%. Big cities with camera systems also experience 21% fewer fatalities from red-light running crashes than do other big cities.

This is a significant change when one considers how more than 800 people died in 2016 in a red-light running collision. Over half of these fatalities were pedestrians, bicyclists and occupants of vehicles other than the guilty driver's.

The controversy surrounds not cameras but rather their abuse by some local governments. Cities can generate revenue, after all, by installing these cameras and then shortening the yellow light duration. Chicago did this back in 2014, and the result was not only more traffic tickets but also more rear-end collisions. If the public had a greater say in the development of camera programs, and if those intersections with cameras were clearly marked, then support may grow for cameras.

In the meantime, drivers will run red lights whenever they think no one will catch them. This is a form of negligent driving, of course, and if it leads to an accident, it can open up a case under personal injury law. New York being a no-fault state, only those who incur a severe injury or disability can file a third-party insurance claim. Victims might do well to have a lawyer assess their case, then. A lawyer may handle all settlement negotiations.

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