Family & Living

March, 21, 2005 - 05:30 PM / ET

Red Light Cameras Reduce Traffic Fatalities
Auto Crashes Leading Cause of Death for Hispanic Youth

NOTE: The following opinion editorial was submitted by Leslie Blakey, Executive Director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running.

(HISPANIC PR WIRE)—March 21, 2005--The Texas Hispanic community must come to terms with the growing problem of red light running, a state and national safety issue that is needlessly causing the death and serious injury of thousands every year.

Texas leads the nation in red light running fatalities. From 1992 to 1998, Texas ranked second in the number of red light running fatalities, accounting for 11 percent of the national total. Even after relating the numbers to population, Texas ranked fourth in the nation—with a rate of 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 people. The cost of red light running injuries and fatalities in Texas is between $1.4 and 3 billion per year.

Hispanic Americans in the United States are disproportionately the victims of traffic crashes on our roads. According to recent federal statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics from one to 44 years of age. Even more telling is that Hispanic children from five to 12 years of age are 72 percent more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than non-Hispanic children.

A study released last year by a prominent national transportation research group found that rapid residential development means more and more Texans are living on or near multi-lane highways with inadequate or nonexistent sidewalks and few crosswalks. That alone makes Texas an increasingly dangerous place to live for the many Latinos who, either by choice or economic situation, travel by bicycle or on foot. In Houston, Hispanic children under 16 years of age made up 42 percent of the pedestrians seriously injured in 1999.

Too many drivers do not consider running a red light to be a serious traffic offense and a danger to their fellow citizens. Consistent enforcement is necessary to deter people from making this dangerous and often deadly choice. One in three Americans knows someone who has been injured, killed, or both because of a red light runner. Red light running crash deaths are increasing three times faster than any other type of roadway fatality. In many cities, the yellow light has come to symbolize "hurry up" instead of "slow down."

There is, however, a way that Texas could begin to reduce aggressive driving behavior like red light running, and that is through the use of automated traffic enforcement technology.

Red light cameras, which are now in use in over 110 communities in 20 states and the District of Columbia, have led to significant decreases in intersection crashes and violations. Recent studies show that photo enforcement leads to a 25 to 30 percent reduction in intersection injury crashes. In Garland, the only Texas city with red light cameras, violations for red light running at the four monitored intersections have dropped 20 percent since 2003.

Red light cameras supplement police work and allow law enforcement to focus on other crimes. Additionally, red light cameras capture and process a violation without a dangerous police pursuit. This technology is a valuable supplement to good traffic engineering as evidenced by the rapid expansion of this technology where it has been allowed by state or local legislation.

There is another aspect of this technology that makes it of particular interest to the local Hispanic community. A recent Texas state study conducted by a coalition of civil rights organizations found that Hispanics were searched by police 69 percent more often than Anglos after routine traffic stops.

Red light running enforcement technology is bias-free ¯ it does not record the faces, race or other characteristics of vehicle occupants. By enforcing the law without a traffic stop, red light cameras reduce the opportunity for “consent searches” based on “looking suspicious.” Most states only allow red light cameras to photograph the vehicle as it runs the red light and record the license plate to identify the owner. There can be no selective enforcement based upon race or any other factors.

There is one major obstacle to the use of this technology by Texas law enforcement agencies, — the state legislature is currently considering legislation that would prevent municipalities from using red light cameras. Legislation to stop cities from enforcing red lights under “home rule” provisions has been sponsored by Rep. Gary Elkins of Houston and legislation sponsored by Rep. Carl Isett of Lubbock would completely prohibit the use of any photo enforcement technology in Texas. The Hispanic community needs to speak out and demand approval for this lifesaving technology which could save hundreds of Texans from being killed or seriously injured by aggressive or inattentive drivers.

When combined with good engineering practices and strong public awareness and education programs, this method of enforcement is proven effective in preventing the crashes and the tragedies that all too often result from red light running. For more information please contact Jeff Agnew or Chris Galm at (202) 828-9100.

The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running is a national advocacy group guided by an independent advisory board that includes leaders from the fields of traffic safety, law enforcement, transportation engineering, health care and emergency medicine, as well as crash victims. More information on the Campaign can be found at http://www.stopredlightrunning.com.

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CONTACT:
Jeff Agnew or Christ Galm
(202) 828-9100








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