The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a study this week that seems to go against what critics and the media have been reporting for years. According to the report, some people – more specifically, a large majority of the residents in Washington D.C. – actually like red light and speed cameras.

The study, conducted in November 2012, interviewed 801 people who live in the District. Of those surveyed over the phone, 71 percent had driven and walked in the city during the past month, 23 percent had walked and not driven and 4 percent had driven and not walked. Of those, just over 50 percent of residents surveyed said they would support cameras at stop signs and nearly 60 percent supported crosswalk cameras. A full 90 percent residents surveyed who hadn't driven in the city in the past month said they favor speed cameras, while 88 percent favor red light cameras.

The press release (posted below) reveals that the eye-opening IIHS study comes from the pedestrians' – not the drivers' – perspective. The data suggests that camera enforcement to increase safety is welcomed despite any revenue controversy. In a city like our nation's capital, chock-full of tourists and with plenty of congestion, residents are so fed up with reckless violators (there were 158 traffic deaths in the District from 2007-11) that they apparently welcome such monitoring even if the tickets end up in their own mailboxes.
Show full PR text
D.C. residents agree red light cameras, speed cameras
make streets safer in nation's capital, IIHS survey reveals


ARLINGTON, Va. - Red light cameras and speed cameras are perpetual targets of critics who deem them widely unpopular and unfair. Ask people who live in areas with long-standing automated enforcement programs their view of cameras and a different picture emerges. A new survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows a large majority of people who live in Washington, D.C., favor camera enforcement.

About 9 of 10 residents said they consider drivers running red lights and stop signs, speeding and not stopping for pedestrians serious threats to their personal safety. Among those surveyed, 87 percent support red light cameras and 76 percent favor speed cameras. Half of respondents favor using cameras to enforce laws against stop sign violations, and 47 percent favor using cameras to enforce laws against crosswalk violations.

In the survey, 93 percent of residents said they were aware of the photo-enforcement program, which includes 47 red light cameras and 43 speed cameras. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has used red light cameras since 1999 and speed cameras since 2001. It plans to expand the program this year to include stop sign and crosswalk cameras.

"D.C. residents' opinions about automated enforcement are clear," says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. "Contrary to some media reports, Washingtonians aren't fed up with red light cameras and speed cameras. Pedestrians and drivers alike support them."

Washington is among the estimated 530 U.S. communities using red light cameras and is one of about 125 jurisdictions with speed cameras. Study after study shows that the devices improve safety. Speed cameras are associated with large reductions in violations and injury crashes. Studies by IIHS have found reductions in red light violation rates of about 40 percent after the introduction of cameras. IIHS in January added to the evidence with research showing that Arlington, Va., intersections equipped with red light cameras experienced a drop in red light running rates.

A 2011 IIHS study demonstrated that red light cameras reduced the rate of fatal red light running crashes by 24 percent in 14 U.S. cities with long-standing camera programs. In a follow-up survey of drivers in these cities, 82 percent considered running red lights a serious threat to their personal safety, and nearly all viewed it as unacceptable. One of the cities was D.C., where 78 percent of drivers said they support red light cameras.

In the latest survey, researchers in November 2012 interviewed by telephone 801 people who live in the district, with approximately equal numbers of respondents in each of the city's eight wards. Seventy-one percent had driven and walked in the city during the past month, 23 percent had walked and not driven and 4 percent had driven and not walked. People defined as having walked had done so for at least five minutes during the past month. Nearly all respondents said they had walked, either daily (70) or at least once a month (5%).

How pedestrians view cameras

Pedestrians are among the main beneficiaries of safer city streets but are sometimes overlooked in discussions about camera enforcement because they don't get citations. D.C. officials have stressed the need to make Washington more walkable and bike-friendly and are using photo enforcement to help.

"Other communities could look to Washington as an example of how to shift the debate over the merits of cameras to the positive benefits they provide for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as people in cars. Enforcing traffic laws makes the roads safer for everyone," McCartt says.

There were 158 traffic deaths in the district in 2007-11. Of those, 55 percent were motor vehicle occupants and 43 percent were pedestrians or bicyclists. More than half of the pedestrian and bicyclist deaths occurred at an intersection.

Ninety percent of people surveyed who hadn't driven in the city in the past month said they favor speed cameras, and 88 percent favor red light cameras.

The survey revealed some confusion about when pedestrians have the right-of-way. More than 9 in 10 people were aware that D.C. law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians crossing the street in marked crosswalks at intersections without traffic signals and midblock. Only 54 percent knew that drivers must stop for pedestrians crossing at intersections without traffic signals and without marked crosswalks.

To make crossings safer, district officials plan to use cameras at stop signs and crosswalks. Stop sign cameras will detect when a car doesn't come to a complete stop before the stop bar. Crosswalk cameras will record violations when vehicles don't stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks in the same lane as the vehicle or in an adjacent lane. The cameras will be installed at midblock marked crosswalks and at intersections where the marked crosswalk isn't controlled by a traffic light or stop sign but the minor intersecting street may have a stop sign.

Just over half of residents surveyed said they would support cameras at stop signs, and 47 percent said they would support them at crosswalks. Support was higher among people who hadn't driven in the city in the past month. Two-thirds of people who don't drive would favor stop sign cameras. Nearly 60 percent would support crosswalk cameras.

People opposed to cameras for crosswalks and stop signs most often said they aren't necessary or that these types of violations aren't big problems.

Drivers and camera violations

Slightly fewer people who had driven in the district in the past month said they support speed cameras than people who hadn't driven in the past month, but support for red light cameras was equally high for both groups. Among the driver group, 71 percent favor speed cameras and 86 percent support red light cameras.

One surprising finding is that 58 percent of drivers said they had received a citation in the mail for a camera violation in the city, mostly for speeding. Of these, 55 percent had gotten more than one ticket. Among ticketed drivers, 85 percent had been cited for speeding, 20 percent for red light running and 3 percent for right-on-red violations.

"It's worth noting that 59 percent of the drivers who had been ticketed agreed that they deserved their most recent citation," McCartt points out. "This counters the argument that drivers are being unfairly targeted. The majority of violators knew they had broken the law and agreed with the consequences."

Despite the safety benefits, automated enforcement programs have been a contentious issue in some areas, and Washington is no exception. Controversy over speed cameras led district administrators last year to revise fines for some violations. Fines were raised for speeding more than 25 mph over the limit and lowered for speeding 15 mph or less over the limit, effective November 2012.

Slightly more than half of residents who knew about the cameras also knew about the new fines. More than three-quarters agreed that higher fines for speeding more than 25 mph over the limit are a good idea. Most in favor of the move said it would make roads safer.

Even though media reports often portray camera programs as all about revenue, IIHS found that the majority of D.C. residents don't feel that way. For the minority of residents opposed to automated enforcement, the perception that cameras are mainly revenue generators lingers. Thirty-five percent of residents opposed to speed cameras and 22 percent opposed to red light cameras said they are used to raise money and not to enhance safety. The next most-cited reason was that cameras make mistakes.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 86 Comments
      RocketRed
      • 1 Year Ago
      Red light cameras, maybe, especially on signaled-left turns. If it doesn\'t result in the city reducing yellow times to increase the revenue. We know how that has happened. The speediing cameras are BS though. Did the survey ask the people getting nailed in the K Street tunnel under Washington Circle, where there are no sidewalks, no pedestrians, nothing? That\'s $125 and up. Every day I drive through there I see that camera going off like a robot papparazzo. It\'s a classic example, because the camera is not there to address a known serious risk to pedestrians or to prevent accidents, it\'s there because you go downhill into the tunnel, so people tend to speed up a bit, and, becaue its a tunnel, there is a good place to put the camera for clean shot. It\'s about money, not safety. I\'m glad that a few rats are being kept safe through.
        sirvixisvexed
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RocketRed
        Totally agree, though honest work is "about money" too. This isn't about "money", it's about honesty and abuse.
      Chunky
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'd like to know how this survey was questioned. If the question was "do you think its possible that red light/speed cameras could improve safety", It's be hard to say no even though I still disagree with the cameras. I'm also beginning to question the validity of cold call surveys, anyone with that much patience and free time to take a phone survey might be biased to certain answers.
        jcwconsult
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Chunky
        Correct, Chunky, you can get virtually any result from an opinion poll if you phrase the questions cleverly enough. The IIHS is a master of "proving" X with polls, when actually Y is true. A vote is a different matter. In actual votes ticket cameras lose about 90% of the time. It is why having votes on cameras is quite rare because the camera vendors and their business partner governments know they will lose most of the time. Camera vendors often bring lawsuits to prevent votes. Of course, cameras are all about safety ........................... NOT. James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association
      Jim R
      • 1 Year Ago
      Their opinions will change once those nice fat tickets start showing up in the mail.
      thedriveatfive
      • 1 Year Ago
      Dear citizens please travel at an appropriate rate for your daily food ration. You will be monitored.
      Army Casualty
      • 1 Year Ago
      What a retarded "study"--D.C. is the smallest non-substate jurisdiction in the U.S. The vast vast majority of its workers do not live in it. They are the ones who get penalized: and they are the ones that keep D.C. alive and well, and spend lots of time commuting and money on said commuting to do that, without whom D.C. would return to the 70's crime infested ghost town it once became, and still is in alot of areas. People who live in the district aren't generally productive. And I don't just mean the politicians! The residents are fed up? I guarantee you they had no idea of the statistic you just cited of the deaths by car--if you live near and work in D.C. and are familiar with it as I am, the idea of D.C. residents being informed or caring about anything is pretty hilarious. Survey be damned.
      Levine Levine
      • 1 Year Ago
      IIHS is either a ***** or a mercenary for the traffic camera companies.
      Chris
      • 1 Year Ago
      My advice? Before you read this, and come to any conclusions, consider the source of this survey.
      SpikedLemon
      • 1 Year Ago
      Of course residents who don't drive would be in favor of them.
      lordedardstark1
      • 1 Year Ago
      It takes a special person to want to talk to a telemarketer.....in a bad way.
      Alex Ellsworth
      • 1 Year Ago
      I had thought we didn\'t have speed cameras in the States... but it seems to depend on where you live? Are there signs to tell you when there\'s a camera? I mean, we have them here in Korea, but there are nice, big yellow signs telling you, \"Camera in 500 meters... Camera in 300 meters.... Heeeeere\'s the camera!\" And since that\'s basically the only way traffic enforcement is done, it\'s pretty easy to avoid tickets..
      avconsumer2
      • 1 Year Ago
      So... people who don't drive... favor speed/red light cameras? Stop the F***ING PRESS.
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      How many of those surveyed were congressmen?
        avconsumer2
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        *How many of those surveyed were government employees or contractors?
    • Load More Comments