Red-light cameras have been installed in cities across Texas and the nation under the pretense of promoting safe driving, but a recent study is casting doubt on those claims and even leading Texas’ top elected official to speak out.
In a tweet Friday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott linked a Denton Record Chronicle article which cited a recent red-light camera study’s assertion that cameras don’t increase public safety.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 10, 2018
As the title suggests, the recently-released study disputes the narrative peddled by red-light camera companies and revenue-hungry city councils that the cameras prevent accidents.
Titled “Criminal Deterrence When There are Offsetting Risks: Traffic Cameras, Vehicular Accidents, and Public Safety,” the study claims that when drivers are aware of a red-light camera present at an intersection they will brake earlier and harder to avoid a ticket.
But while that often prevents them from running the red light, it doesn’t actually make anyone safer, nor does it reduce the number of crashes at intersections according to Justin Gallagher, the author of the study.
“There is no evidence that the program led to an improvement of public safety,” Gallagher said of the statewide data. All red-light cameras change, he said, was the probability someone would be caught (and subsequently ticketed); the probability a person would avoid a crash did not.
According to Gallagher, those findings reveal that drivers are aware of the money they could lose but are no more conscious of other drivers or pedestrians.
Activists across Texas—especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex—have been arguing that point for years and spearheading initiatives to ban cities from implementing them. While many of those citizen-led efforts have been successful, a number haven’t—to the continued frustration of taxpayers.
Abbott was quickly bolstered in his call by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford), a conservative leader in the Texas House and known opponent of red-light cameras.
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) August 10, 2018
Banning red-light cameras completely in Texas is a priority of the Republican Party of Texas whose platform states, “We urge the Texas Legislature to enact legislation for the statewide ban of all photo enforcement ticket cameras, such as red-light cameras, speed cameras, and external-facing cameras on buses.”
Eliminating red-light cameras is also a legislative priority of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and is expected to be a major issue lawmakers will consider when they return to Austin in January 2019.