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Criminal Deterrence When There Are Offsetting Risks: Traffic Cameras, Vehicular Accidents, and Public Safety

November 17, 2017
By Justin Gallagher and Paul J. Fisher

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University found no reduction in total accidents or injuries at red-light camera intersections in Houston, Texas.

Numerous cities have enacted electronic monitoring programs at traffic intersections in an effort to reduce the high number of vehicle accidents. The rationale is that the higher expected fines for running a red light will induce drivers to stop and lead to fewer cross-road collisions. However, the cameras also incentivize drivers to accept a greater accident risk from stopping. We evaluate the termination of a monitoring program via a voter referendum using 12 years of geocoded police accident data. We find that the cameras changed the composition of accidents, but no evidence of a reduction in total accidents or injuries.