NEW TRAFFIC STUDY SHOWS RED LIGHT CAMERA LIKELY TO INCREASE COLLISIONS IN BELLINGHAM LOCATION
Engineer’s study does not support installation of cameras
October 23, 2011
(BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON) -- One of the many complaints about cities such as Monroe, Bellingham, Los Angeles and others about city councils that jump into bed with out of state red light ticket camera operators is that city officials almost always, and exclusively, rely on traffic “data” and statements about safety supplied by parties with a clear conflict of interest in the matter.
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Parties such as the red light camera outfit that stands to make money, sometimes very big money, if it seals the deal and gets a signed contract.
That is what the man who almost single handedly killed the Los Angeles red light camera ticket program found out when he began sniffing around that city’s red light camera program.
Sometime TV writer/producer Jay Beeber, found the official L.A. city government claims for the cameras and facts of the camera matter were often two different things.
Beeber did a lot of research and peppered the L.A. Police Commission and City Council with studies showing that, despite repeated claims by the Los Angeles Police Department brass, red-light cameras were not a major factor in improving safety.
He found the police department was making highly questionable claims about the safety effectiveness of the cameras based on flimsy (some would say lousy) data.
Beeber discovered that, "Most of the studies that show the cameras were effective were put out by groups with a financial interest in keeping the cameras, like the Insurance Group for Highway Safety."
And that has been the big take away lesson for local groups around the country fighting the camera companies and the city councils in their own communities.
BELLINGHAM GROUP FINDS CLAIMS DO NOT MATCH REALITY
Now a group in Bellingham says a new engineering collision study released Saturday shows that the red-light camera proposed for the northbound State Route 539 and Telegraph Road intersection in Bellingham will not significantly reduce collisions, and moreover that it would potentially increase collisions and injuries on the Guide Meridian.
The report, prepared by Gibson Traffic Consultants Inc. of Everett, concludes, “the collision data does not support the introduction of red-light cameras”.
Specifically, the study determined that “photo enforcement has the potential to reduce right angle red-light running collisions by less than one per year, while increasing rear end collisions by an average of nearly five per year for this particular intersection.”
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“We are not surprised by the results, and have serious concerns with the safety risks moving forward with this project,” said Randy Elmore, Bellingham resident and Transportation Safety Coalition spokesperson.
“We believe the results at the Guide are consistent with what we would see throughout the city, had we the funds to look at the rest of the intersections and the school zones.”
Gibson produced the report using collision data provided through public disclosure by both the City of Bellingham and the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The company’s review of the data showed that in the most recent five years for which data was available, only one collision was caused by red light running and that none of the right-angle or stop light collisions resulted in any injuries.
The report also quotes a 2010 Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal article which states that red-light cameras are normally installed after a traffic engineering evaluation shows that all reasonable countermeasures (such as increasing yellow light timing, improving visibility) have been tried.
It further notes that the reason to “conduct such investigations and corrections before resorting to additional enforcement” is that research has shown the cameras can increase collisions.
As is the case here in Monroe and in other cities, red-light cameras have been hotly debated in Bellingham after city officials canceled a promised public hearing on the matter this spring, and then signed the contract with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions.
The Transportation Safety Coalition, a Bellingham organization fighting to stop the cameras from being installed, requested all documents, emails and research regarding the camera program from the city through the public disclosure process in June 2011.
Though some minor counts of red light infractions and speed violators were provided, the group says it was clear no thorough traffic or collision analysis was done before giving the camera vendor the green light or choosing the intersections.
The safety group then hired a respected, local engineering firm “to do what they believe the city failed to do.”
The group believes the Gibson report provides irrefutable proof the camera program is unwarranted, potentially dangerous, and should be canceled.
“In this economy, adding financial punishment in the form of fines, where no serious collision history exists, forces drivers to focus on their pocketbooks rather than our intersections, and their speedometers rather than our school kids in crosswalks,” said Elmore.
“If there is a serious collision safety problem – prove it – and let’s look at fixing it. If not, let’s not get somebody hurt to make the city extra revenue,” added Elmore.