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Tuesday
Oct142014

Chicago's Misleading Red Light Accident Statistics

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has revised their highlighted study on the effectiveness of red light cameras.  (You can find my criticism of an earlier study here).  The new CDOT study reads:

The most recent crash statistics show that between 2005 and 2012 crashes of all types were down at intersections with cameras, and overall safety had improved:

  • Dangerous right-angle (T-bone) crashes decreased by 47% 
  • All crashes at those intersections were down 33% 
  • Crashes resulting in serious injuries were down 22% 
  • Pedestrian crashes were also down 22% 
  • Rear-end crashes were down by 7%

Here are the facts: 

In 2005 Chicago had 119,133 accidents.

In 2012 Chicago had 78,044 accidents.

Running the numbers, you will see that is a drop of 35%!  This means accidents all across the city dropped 35%.  So it is no surprise that accidents at RLC intersections between 2005 and 2012 dropped 33% according to the analysis by CDOT.

So how can this large drop be explained?  First, there is a general trend of accidents dropping because people are driving less the last 10 years.  Second, the definition of an accident changed in 2009 by going up to $1500, so that led a drop in accidents.  Third, as I shown in Chicago (and plenty of research around the world has concurred), red light cameras don't lead to large drops in accidents.

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