Are red light cameras accurate? Do they work?

A couple of weeks ago, my sister and her husband from Wenatchee were visiting their son and his wife in Lynnwood, Washington. While driving on 184th St SW in Lynnwood, my brother-in-law stopped at an intersection and then made a right turn on Alderwood Parkway. Everyone in their car saw a bright flash as the car next to them ran a red light. My nephew, a school teacher, said from the backseat, “Someone just got their picture taken when they ran that red light.” The following week, my brother-in-law received a ticket in the mail.

The ticket imposed a $124.00 for running a red light. Along with the ticket was a photograph showing a picture of my brother-in-law’s Blazer which was clearly behind the white line, had its brake lights on and the wheels were clearly turned to the right.

Hopefully, after my brother-in-law writes a letter to the court, his ticket will be dismissed.

I was curious, however, are red light cameras effective? Do they reduce car accidents? I Googled “red light cameras” and found that the cameras are controversial. They are designed to take a pictures of a car’s license plate when a driver runs a red light in the belief that people will run red lights less often. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 22 percent of all traffic accidents are caused by people running red lights. Red light cameras are meant to change the behavior of drivers, but do they really do that?

Report says Cameras Cause Crashes

A report by the University of South Florida College of Public Health and published in Science Daily in March of 2008 says that red light cameras increase crashes because drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections. The USF report cites a Virginia Transportation Research Council study that found that the cameras were linked to increased crash costs and a paper by the Office of the Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives which said that cameras are “a hidden tax levied on motorists.” Some cities often set yellow lights too short to increase their fines. (University of South Florida Health (2008, March 12). Red-light Cameras Increase Crashes,¬† Florida Researchers Find.¬†ScienceDaily.¬† ”

Initiative 985

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 985 says red light cameras are not about safety but are a revenue generating device. I-985 takes the money generated from the cameras away from the cities and applies it to a centralized fund. “If you take the money away, they’re going to take the cameras down and illustrate which cities are in it for the money,” Eyman said. In January of this year, a KOMO news article said that the city of Seattle collected more than a million dollar in fines “in the first year from the cameras at four intersections.”

I’ll let you know if my brother-law’s ticket is dismissed. But until then, here is a list of the red light existing and planned in Seattle:


bellevue car accident attorneyEastbound and Westbound Denny Way
and Fairview Ave, Seattle WA 98109 Eastbound Roosevelt Way NE
and NE 45th St., Seattle WA 98105 Northbound and Southbound Rainier Avenue S.
at Orcas Street, Seattle WA 98118 Eastbound 5th Ave. and Spring St., Seattle WA 98104

North Seattle
EB NW Market @ 15th NW*
WB NW Market @ 15th NW *
SB 15thNW @ NW 80th
SB Stone Way @ NW 40th
NB Aurora @ NW 85th
EB NE 80th @ 5th NE
EB NE 45th @ Union Bay Place (Five Corners) *
WB NE 45th @ Union Bay Place (Five Corners) *
NB NE 45th @ Union Bay Place (Five Corners) *
Central Seattle
SB 6th @ James*
SB 5th @ Spring
SB 1st @ Marion
NB Broadway @ Olive (Ped)
EB Olive @ Broadway (Ped)
SB Broadway @ Pine* (Ped)
SB Boren @ James
SB 23rd @ E John
NB 9th @ James (Ped)
South Seattle
NB 14th S @ Cloverdale NB Rainier @ S Orcas
EB Cloverdale @ 14th S SB Rainier @ S Orcas WB Avalon @ 35th SW
SB 35th SW @ SW Thistle
NB Rainier @ S Massachusetts
WB S McClellan @ Martin Luther King
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