Study: Red-light cameras decreasing wrecks in Cary

Posted January 9, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— A study by an outside consultant shows that cameras at 15 Cary intersections have done a good job of catching red-light runners and reducing crashes.

Cary began installing cameras in 2004 at intersections with high numbers of crashes and red-light violators. Since then, 77,564 drivers – including 18,205 in 2004 – have been ticketed for going through intersections while the traffic light was red.

Some residents questioned whether red-light cameras increase safety or increase accidents.

"You may try to go through the light because you're trying to avoid getting rear-ended," driver Bernard Scales, of Cary, said.

Cary’s red-light cameras catch more violators, stop more wrecks Cary’s red-light cameras catch violators, stop wrecks

A consultant hired by the camera system's private operator released a report showing that wrecks decreased at 12 of the 15 intersections with red-light cameras, while the crash rate increased at two intersections. The study compared crash rates for three years before and three years after the cameras were installed in 2004.

The intersection of High House Road and Cary Parkway saw 50 percent fewer accidents. Walnut Street and Maynard Road had 70 percent fewer, and Harrison Avenue and Maynard Road was down 80 percent.

However, at High House and Prestonwood roads, the number of rear-end wrecks quadrupled.

Cary police defended the red-light cameras, saying that rise in wrecks could be caused by the increased number of cars going through the intersections. On the other hand, police argued, the red-light cameras cause motorists to drive more safely.

"Everyone's driving behavior does get modified where they know the cameras are out there and they need to come to a complete stop," Chris Davis, records manager for Cary Police, said.

Based on the study, town staffers recommending renewing the contract with Arizona-based RedFlex Traffic Systems after it expires in February. RedFlex is responsible for photographing violators, sending them the evidence and collecting fines.

From the $50 fine, RedFlex gets $30, and the Wake County Public School System receives $20. Through the end of fiscal year 2008 on June 30, the program had sent $311,012 to WCPSS.

The Cary red-light program operates under a special state law that exempts it from a North Carolina State Supreme Court ruling that localities must give 90 percent of the fines to schools. That ruling prompted many cities to shut down their camera systems when they could no longer keep enough money to pay the operators.

Some drivers said they do not see value in the red-light cameras, while police praised their beneficial affects.

"I can only say, for me, that I think it's not worth it," Scales said.

"I do believe reducing crashes makes the town safer," Davis said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • jafrelin Jan 15, 2009

    I looked at the report that provided no statistical analysis. It provided no raw data. I am horrified that anyone paid for or submitted such a report.

  • DominicanNC Jan 14, 2009

    Rational thinking and OSX... I agree 100% with you. I wish we had more traffic cameras around the country. I am sick and tired of people tailgate, ignoring red lights from school buses and driving well over the speed limit around school zones. for some of you whinners, please use your brains if you have any that cameras are about safety, not about privacy.

  • killerkestrel Jan 12, 2009

    Even where red light cameras don't decrease the total number of accidents, they decrease the severity. Instead of folks getting hit in the side, they get rear ended and are less likely to be injured or killed.

    If you increase the yellow and all-red time, that decreases the capacity of the intersection, and traffic backups become longer.

    And it is a pity that tailgaters don't get their just deserts. Wether you are 10' off my bumper or 50', you aren't going to get there any faster because we are both stuck in traffic.

  • leo-nc Jan 9, 2009

    I had no issues understand what you said OSX. I thought it was pretty simple but apparently it's not.

  • Trivr Jan 9, 2009

    Is there a reason the ticket is only $50? I got stopped for 12mph over and was nailed with a $125 (or was it $110) ticket. Why the disparity? I would think running a red light is much more dangerous.

  • OSX Jan 9, 2009

    speedy... Nope, I stand by what I said. I don't know what part of what I said is so confusing? Don't run red lights and don't tail gate. Does this help? Slow down on yellow and stop on red. Get yourself a drivers handbook to explain the rest. Good luck to you speedy.

  • speedy Jan 9, 2009

    OSX: Perhaps you should correct what you said then

    "If you drive like you're supposed to, you wouldn't have to worry about those cameras. Rear end collisions either.

    They help thin out the people who THINK they know to drive."

  • OSX Jan 9, 2009

    speedy... these cameras are put up to fine people that don't understand green, yellow, and red. It isn't that complicated. By the way, Yellow doesn't mean you should speed up, just in case you were wondering.

  • OSX Jan 9, 2009

    MrX... How long to you think the yellows and reds should be?

  • OSX Jan 9, 2009

    speedy.... Really? You stop at a Red light and you get rear ended. It is the guy that hit you is at fault. Really, you stop at a Red light and get hit, it isn't your fault.