Have Red Light Speed Cameras Saved Lives in Maryland?

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’ve got a post from The WashCycle about speeding, new red light cameras and a reduction in fatalities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Police there report that "a 2008 study of 11 camera locations found a 25 percent reduction in crashes on the roads where the speed cameras were located." Deaths have gone to 9 from 19 over a the same period last year. While the WashCycle cautions against reading too much into a relatively small amount of data, they also say the cameras have likely been effective. They also report on some novel citizen objections to the technology:

136414178_b9bb1f3508_m.jpgPhoto by Michael Patrick via Flickr.

It is reasonable to assume that the cameras should get some credit — if not the lion’s share. As Prof. Steven Dutch puts it, "Correlation doesn’t prove causation when there is no plausible link between two phenomena, or when there is some more plausible cause. But if there is a plausible link, then correlation is very strong evidence for causation."

I’ve heard several arguments against speed cameras; such as privacy issues, not being able to face your accuser, manipulation of the data or circumstances to increase violations and, thus, revenue. But this is a new one:

"’I am against the speed cameras. No. 1, I don’t think they pick up one of the major hazards on our roadways in Montgomery County right now — bicyclists,’ resident Reardon Sullivan told the Montgomery County Council."

Really? Bicyclists? Not drunk drivers? Not inattentive drivers? Especially since we’re talking about speed cameras (not red light cameras) — and it is very difficult for cyclists to speed.

More from around the network: The National Journal asks the experts what difference an 18-month delay in the transpo bill would actually make; World Streets talks about scientific methods for reducing driving; and The Overhead Wire looks at transit-oriented development in a down economy.

  • “I don’t think they pick up one of the major hazards on our roadways in Montgomery County right now — bicyclists”

    Watch out for those hazardous bicyclists. Cars kill over 40,000 people per year in the Us. How many people do bicyclists kill?

  • Glad to see we don’t have a monopoly on logic-starved, anti-cyclist cranks!

    [Um, wait, maybe I’m not so glad.]

  • it’s laughable that cars kill thousands every day and yet people still complain more so about speeding cyclists, as if they were all Mad Max road warriors!

    Walk into any room and survey the crowd….
    Raise your hand if you’ve ever known someone killed by a car collision. Lots of hands will go up.
    Raise your hand if you’ve ever known someone killed by a bike collision accident. Would ANY hands go up?

  • john

    Speeding-wreckless drivers to face more surveillance: Beginning next July, the IL State Police will begin using photo radar in highway work zones. Drivers going even one mile over the speed limit will find themselves with a $375 ticket in the mail (first offense). A second ticket will cost $1000 and brings with it a 90 day suspension of the driver’s license.

    Why aren’t cyclists-pedestrians treated as well as highway workers?

  • nopojoe

    Reardon, quoted in article saying cyclists are the biggest hazard not addressed by red light cameras.. hes right. We cyclists are going to fast.Because we are fit, not a fat ass like Reardon. No wonder hes pissed. His Honda hasn’t enough juice to get his ass up to Warp3 like my bike does.

    Ditch the Honda,Reardon. Run with the pack.

  • Thousands every day? Try 124. Guess how many are killed by exceeding the posted speed limit every day? Less than 9. There’s about 1 death due to exceeding the posted limit per 1 BILLION miles driven. Federal studies, and other studies show that RLCs are inneffective and in some cases, increase accidents. But do you know what’s always effective? Increasing the yellow light time, as well as other measures like improving signs and signal visibility. Get the facts before you rant. PhotoRadarScam.com

  • J. Mork

    Each year, about 1.2 million drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians of all ages are killed on the roads, according to the study prepared by the World Health Organization and the World Bank.


    1.2 million / 365 = 3,288

  • Jack

    Here in MoCo, traffic going 45mph in a 35mph zone (on a road that could take 80mph empty) slows down to 25mph to go through the cameras. It is stressful, it produces traffic jams, and it produces collisions. They might have had a slight impact on pedestrian safety, at the expense of a large increase in rear-end collision. Better crosswalks and signalization could have produced the former without the latter.

  • Jack, I’m assuming there’s a good reason for the 35mph zone, in which case the street should really not be designed to move people at 80mph. Sounds like your street needs some traffic calming.


There Is No Doubt That Automated Traffic Enforcement Saves Lives

Taking up one of the contrarian slots in today’s “Room for Debate” segment about Vision Zero and pedestrian safety in NYC, Jennifer Lynch of The Electronic Frontier Foundation staked out the civil libertarian position against automated traffic enforcement. EFF does great legal and policy work in general, but Lynch is way off base here. At […]