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Northwestern Red Light Camera Study

Northwestern University is getting a generous grant, $311,778, from the city of Chicago to study the effectiveness of red light cameras.  This is in response to a promise by the Chicago Department of Transportation to have an academic review on the cameras.  I can get a good feel for the eventual results of the study based on these comments (from CBS): 

Mahmassani said the Tribune study “had good points.” But, he said, “It’s generally known that, when you introduce red-light camera enforcement, you may experience some increase in rear-end, relatively minor crashes. Where you have reduction is the more dangerous sideswipe, right-angle crashes.”

I am curious on the approach that will be used here.  The cameras have been in place for 13 years depending on the intersection and the definition of a accident changed in 2009.  My own analysis did find a slight reduction in the 2010 study on angle and turning crashes.  So if right angle accidents generally result in $6,000 of damage versus $2,000 for a rear-end, the argument that Mahmassani will likely make is that its acceptable for accidents to rise, as long as the cost to society decreases.  My position then (and still now), is that the cameras have not show themselves to signficantly reduce accidents.  Although, I would like to see a methodologically rigrous study that could make an accurate determination of the true cost or benefits of the red light cameras.

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