On April 12, the NY State Senate’s Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Fuschillo (R-Nassau), approved and reported out of committee bills that would authorize New York City  to expand its their red-light camera programs. The bills are awaiting action by the Assembly.

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Crashes caused by red-light running are particularly dangerous—they tend to combine speed and right-angle, or “T-Bone,” impacts, which lead to a high number of injuries and deaths. A YouTube video, recently released by Suffolk County, shows several crashes as well as a variety of vehicles breaking the law, including school buses, a garbage truck, and a gasoline tanker truck.

According to a recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as many as 171,000 crashes, 144,000 injuries and 887 fatalities were attributed to red-light running in the U.S. in 2006. The public costs of these crashes exceed $14 billion per year. Nearly two-thirds of the deaths in red-light running crashes are passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians.

These are preventable deaths. The IIHS report found that fatal crashes were reduced by 24 percent in 14 large cities that introduced red light cameras between 1996 and 2004. Today, over 500 cities are using this technology.

Cameras help ensure that those who break the law shoulder the costs of enforcing it, and that the limited resources of public safety departments are spent on areas that require boots on the ground — not on traffic violations that can be effectively addressed by new technologies. Some have argued that a longer yellow light is just as effective at curbing violations. However, a study in Philadelphia, discussed in this status report from the Traffic Safety Coalition, found that while a longer yellow helped reduce violations by 36%, cameras reduced them by an additional 96%.

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