Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LA City Council Continues Red Light Camera Debate

We have a little more time to wait, but things aren't looking good for the future of red light cameras in LA. As reported in the LA Times,  the Council needs at least eight votes to take any action on the program. Currently, five councilmembers have voted in favor of continuing the cameras--at least long enough to do additional analysis of their effectiveness-- while seven councilmembers would like to end the program immediately. The debate will continue at today's meeting, and again until there are at least eight votes one way or the other.

Best quote of the hearing, from Councilmember Parks in response to the assertion that a $500 red-light ticket could devastate a low-income family, "What is even more devastating is if you lose a life or cripple someone for life because of a traffic accident."

Most discouraging assertion by the LA Times, "A Times investigation in 2008 found that some cities, including Los Angeles, get most of their photo enforcement money from citing slower, rolling-stop right turns, which many experts say cause fewer and less serious accidents." That might hold true for vehicle crashes, but I'd like to see the data for pedestrian crashes...  


  1. Hi Katie,

    You asked about statistics involving rolling right turns and pedestrians. Here’s your answer. All data comes from the CHP’s SWITRS database. You have to combine two data sets in order to determine which collisions are caused by rolling right turns.

    For 2009, the most recent year for which complete data is available, there were 7 pedestrian collisions in the City of Los Angeles due to rolling right turns. One involved an impaired driver. The database classifies injury collisions as to severity. The least severe injury collision is designated as “complaint of pain”. Six of the 7 collisions fell into this category. In increasing severity the classifications are: “visible injury”, “severe injury”, and “fatal”. The seventh collision was classified as “visible injury”; there were none classified as severe or fatal. In fact, we could find no fatal collisions due to rolling right turns for any of the years studied, 2002-2009. The lack of severe and fatal injuries is likely due to the relatively slow nature of most rolling right turns. For comparison, there were a total of 2749 collisions involving pedestrians in Los Angeles in 2009 (both pedestrian at fault and driver at fault). This means that pedestrian collisions due to rolling right turns represent ¼ of 1% of all pedestrian collisions annually.

    I hope this answers your question. Please contact me if you would like any additional information.

    By the way, the camera companies are not your friend. They advocate for shorter yellow light times in order to increase citations at the expense of safety. Some contracts forbid cities from lengthening their yellow light times at camera monitored intersections. Also, there is a huge opportunity cost to the camera programs. For the $3 million that is spent annually to the vendor, the city could install 300 rapid flashing beacon pedestrian crosswalk systems at dangerous mid-block locations throughout LA. Think how much safer the roadways would be if this happened.

  2. Helpful, thanks. I'm planning to research the right turn on red issue for an upcoming post, so I will be sure to check out the SWITRS database.

    As far as the opportunity cost goes, you may have a point--but my understanding is that in this case if the RLC program ends, the money just goes back to the PD, and not necessarily to other pedestrian improvements.