Video: Red-light camera controversy

By Rehema Ellis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/22/2005 7:55:11 PM ET 2005-02-23T00:55:11

Tuesday, just before Philadelphia lawmakers celebrated surveillance cameras’ going up at an intersection to catch violators, a truck ran a red light.

“It is our hope to start reducing accidents and along with that saving lives,” says Vincent Fenerty with the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

But the cameras are controversial.

Just last Friday, Virginia state legislators debated whether their red light cameras — in place for the last decade — should be eliminated.

“Red light cameras do not increase safety,” says Eric Scrum with the National Motorists Association. “Quite frankly, they are not a solution in any shape or form.”

Running red lights is still one of the leading causes of traffic accidents. The Department of Transportation says more than 92,000 crashes, resulting in 900 deaths, are caused each year by motorists running red lights.

Barbara Blaustein was crossing an intersection and was hit by a driver who ran a light. Her pelvis, ribs, legs and one arm were broken.

“I hope it’s a wakeup call for everybody who tries to shave a few minutes off their commute or just thinks that it really doesn't matter,” says Blaustein.

Desperate to prevent accidents, 102 cities in 19 states and the District of Columbia have installed red light cameras. The results are mixed. Studies by the Federal Highway Administration show right angle crashes decreased by 25 to 30 percent, but rear-end crashes increased by about 15 percent.

“When you consider the severity of side-impact crashes that tend to kill people, while rear-end crashes are generally minor, there's a trade-off that's acceptable,” says Richard Retting of the  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Back in Virginia, though, the legislators weren't convinced. They voted to turn off the cameras July 1.

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