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Friday, February 6, 2009

Cameras cut car crashes, so claim Toledo police

The Toledo Blade quotes Police Chief Navarre, referring to a mythical study done by the Toledo Police Department. I say mythical because I have not been able to find it anywhere. Not on Google, nor on the Toledo Police Department web site (which looks like it was done 10 years ago). I would like to actually see this study, rather than take the chief's word for it. Everything else I read says that red light camera results are inconclusive at best, and sometimes even increase the number of accidents.

That's the story told in the Toledo City Paper. Many local intersections really did increase the number of crashes once the cameras were put in. Then, after the initial strike, accident numbers fluctuated and did not show a trend one way or another. Their main conclusion is as follows:

Just like with rear end or side impact collision accidents, however, the data for injury and fatality accidents show that the numbers do not radically change after red light cameras are installed. Most of the records from the Toledo Police Department show that some years will contain as many as 20 accidents at an intersection, a few years later only 5, and then again back up 19 a few years after that. Blaming red light cameras, or conversely, giving credit to them, for affecting accident patterns and how safely people drive may be a futile way to measure their worth.

Other than citing one study which I couldn't find, the Blade's article is mostly emotional fluff. Even with a few cameras sprinkled through the city, there are pretty good chances someone will die in a car crash. I can understand the pain of people like Darlene Stokes, who lost her father 10 years ago when dump-truck driver ran into him. Well-intentioned though she is, installing more cameras won't bring him back. They will, however, be used as a cash generator by the city to steal even more money from hapless taxpayers. Even people who are generally careful drivers get busted.

Police departments are more than happy to use sad stories like this to their advantage in drumming up support for this stuff. Darlene is allowing herself to be used in this way. Thankfully, there is a new effort to put the issue of banning these dreadful cameras before the voting public. Police Chief Navarre reportedly said: "I'm concerned that people who have been issued violation notices will vote for the ban". You're damn right they will, Mr. Navarre. And rightfully so.

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