Chances are that you have encountered driving through a city that has placed red light cameras at intersections. The stated purpose is to increase safety at intersections by imposing a penalty for those drivers who run red lights. The penalty fine varies from place to place but is typically $50 or $100 for a violation. If not paid timely, then the fine amount doubles in most locations.
The Good. When driving through an intersection, it is nice to know that other drivers may be less likely to run a red light if they fear being fined for that bad driving habit. We know that 40% of the roughly 6 million car crashes that occur in the United States every year are intersection-related crashes. Various surveys and data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warn us that intersections can be dangerous places. If red light cameras cause drivers to be more careful not to enter an intersection on a red light, then that should be a good thing for all of us.
The Bad. While red light cameras may make drivers more reluctant to enter an intersection on a red light, they can create situations where drivers slam on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket resulting in rear end collisions near these red light camera equipped intersections. A review of studies on the topic by the Federal Highway Administration supports the conclusion that red light cameras reduce the number of right angle (T-bone) crashes, but also increase the number of rear-end collisions. As a result of the conflicting safety data, many cities have removed previously placed red light cameras and at least 9 states have banned them altogether from being used.