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Red-light cameras save children’s lives, study finds

Cameras monitor the Division and Sprague intersection waiting for red light violators in this 2011 photo. (File / The Spokesman-Review)
By Fredrick Kunkle Washington Post

A new study suggests that red-light cameras save children’s lives.

The study – which was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference, which was Oct. 22-25 in San Francisco – found a correlation between rising traffic fatalities involving children in some states following the termination of red-light-camera enforcement there.

The study found that serious motor vehicle crashes increased substantially – more than tripling in Houston, for example – after the cameras were turned off.

Not surprisingly, the study also found links between the use of other safety measures, such as seat belts or car seats, and a reduction in children’s deaths from motor vehicle accidents. Simply increasing the use of seat belts or child restraints by 10 percent nationally, for example, would save more than 1,500 children’s lives over five years, an abstract of the study says.

“We are interested in helping states understand how their laws can prevent children from dying if they are involved in a car crash,” senior author Faisal Qureshi, an associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said in a written statement.

Qureshi and fellow researchers analyzed four years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to understand mortality rates. The data included 18,116 children who were 15 years old and younger and involved in fatal crashes; of those, nearly 16 percent died. Mortality rates among the children varied from 0.25 per 100,000 in Massachusetts to 3.20 per 100,000 in Mississippi, where a higher percentage of unrestrained children and rural roads contributed to the death rate.

The Traffic Safety Coalition, which is funded by the traffic camera industry, said the study lends additional support to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that found that fatal accidents involving red-light runners increased 30 percent after those programs were shut down. The Insurance Institute estimated nearly 1,300 lives were saved by the use of red-light cameras in 79 cities in the United States as of 2014.

“Removing this potentially lifesaving technology is not only irresponsible, it’s a public health risk,” Traffic Safety Coalition national co-chairman Paul Oberhauser said in a statement.