Another city learns red light cameras don’t work

San Francisco, California red light camera annual report shows engineering improvements had more of a beneficial effect than enforcement.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation AgencyRed light cameras have been issuing tickets in San Francisco, California for more than a decade, but their impact on safety has been mixed. Earlier this year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency released its annual report on automated ticketing. While the document claims red-light related collisions throughout San Francisco dropped after photo enforcement began, a closer look at the data shows other engineering factors are at work.

“Red light running collisions have shown a general decrease since the early 1990s, with 2011 recording the second lowest annual total in ten years,” the report explained. “Signal hardware improvements funded by the city’s transportation sales tax have helped reduce these types of collisions, most notably in the South of Market area. This drop coincides with the city’s deployment of red light photo enforcement starting in the late 1990s. Other global factors such as education, motor vehicle design, or demographic changes could also be contributing to these trends.”

Intersection by intersection statistics show that improvements such as increases to the yellow signal time, signal upgrades, addition of an all-red period, pedestrian signals and dedicated turn arrows all had significant impacts. The role of cameras is muddled at several intersections where automated ticketing machines were installed after these upgrades were made.

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  1. Simple, inexpensive engineering changes to the lights and intersections almost always produce greater safety than red light cameras. Red light cameras are literally a government highway robbery scam.
    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

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