Fact Sheet

According to 2002 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 6.3 million reported crashes occurred on America's roadways. According to the Department of Transportation, approximately 43% of motor vehicle crashes occur at intersections or are intersection-related. Red light running is the leading cause of urban crashes.

Automated red light running photo-enforcement systems, also known as red light cameras, can help communities enforce traffic laws and prevent dangerous traffic signal violations. Red light cameras are connected to traffic signals and to sensors buried in or above the pavement at the crosswalk or stop line. The cameras are triggered by vehicles passing over the sensors after the signal has turned red. Two photographs of the violation are taken, one when the vehicle enters the intersection and the other while it is in the intersection. In most localities with the systems, citations are mailed to the registered owner of the car who is able to challenge the citation if he or she was not the driver at the time of the violation.

Red Light Running Facts

  • In 2002, more than 1.8 million intersection crashes occurred throughout the nation. Of those, about 219,000 are due to red light running - resulting in about 1,000 deaths and 181,000 injuries. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS, and Federal Highway Administration, FHWA, 2003)
  • A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that at a busy intersection in Virginia, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes. During peak commuting times red light running was more frequent. (2003)
  • According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Trauma Society, two out of three Americans see someone running a red light at least a few times a week and, at most, once a day. (1998)
  • One in three Americans knows someone who has been injured or killed in a red light running crash. (FHWA, 2002)

Red Light Camera System Facts

The objectives of red light cameras are to stop dangerous driving behaviors, reduce crashes, save lives, prevent injuries, lower health care costs, and respond to community concerns.
  • Significant citywide crash reductions have followed the introduction of red light cameras in Oxnard, California. Front-into-side crashes at intersections with traffic signals, the collision type most closely associated with red light running, fell 32%. There were 68% fewer front-into-side crashes involving injuries. (IIHS, 2003)
  • The Road Traffic Authority in Australia reported a 32% decrease in right-angle collisions and a 10% reduction in injuries after red light cameras were installed in Victoria in 1983. (IIHS, 2003)102, 800-800-2358, 573-751-4161
  • In Fairfax, Virginia, after one year of camera enforcement, violations were reduced by about 40%. Additionally, 84% of its residents support the use of red light cameras. (IIHS, 2003)
  • Red light cameras are being used to enforce traffic laws in more than 70 U.S. communities. Only five states and the District of Columbia have statewide red light camera laws. In other states, there are laws that authorize camera use in specific areas or under specific circumstances. (IIHS, 2003)
  • Photographic detection devices, such as red light cameras, are already being used extensively around the globe. Other countries currently using photographic detection devices include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. (IIHS, 2003)
  • The public is overwhelmingly in support of strong action against red light running. Three Lou Harris public opinion polls commissioned by advocates in 1998, 1999 and 2001 found consistently that two-thirds of the public supported state adoption of red light running photo-enforcement.
  • A national poll conducted on behalf of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running in 2000 revealed that 6 out of 10 Americans supported the use of red light cameras in their cities.
  • An April 2001 survey of 10 cities by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that opinions about red light camera use are favorable in communities both with (between 84 and 77%) and without (between 82 and 72%) programs.

Some argue that red light cameras violate a motorist's privacy rights, but they are less invasive and less subjective than traditional law enforcement methods. Cameras photograph only the vehicle’s license plate or the face of the driver, depending on a state's law, whereas a ticketing officer can see inside the vehicle. With the cameras, there is no subjectivity or privacy violation because whoever crosses the intersection after the light turns red will receive a citation.

By obtaining a driver's license, an individual agrees to abide by certain rules, one of which is to obey traffic signals. The use of cameras is just one way to enforce this law and is a necessary supplement to ongoing police enforcement.