Deaths at red lights have surged since 2012, AAA study finds

Study finds red light deaths have surged

Last Updated Aug 29, 2019 6:55 PM EDT

New York — Distracted driving is blamed for driving up deaths at red lights to a 10 year high. Technology to curb the problem is proving to be controversial.

A new study from AAA finds red light deaths have surged, up 28% since 2012. "The problem is drivers are distracted, they're impatient and they're reckless," said AAA spokesman Doug Shupe.

Research shows red light cameras, which catch drivers in the act and mail them a ticket, cut fatal crashes by 14% and red light running by 21%. But outraged drivers call it policing for profit. 

Kelly Canon lead the charge in Texas to ban red light cameras this summer, the eighth state to do so. "I call it government sanctioned extortion," Canon said.

New York City was first to use red light cameras and is now increasing its speed cameras tenfold to more than 2,000 in two years. Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg disagrees with the idea that cameras are speed traps.
 
"We're thoughtful and data driven about where we put the cameras. We're not trying to have a game of gotcha," Trottenberg said.

At least 141 other communities in 15 states also use speed cameras. According to the New York City Department of Transportation, they've cut speeding incidents by more than 60% and crashes by 15%.  

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the cameras do tend to change driver behavior, cutting excessive speeding by about 80%. New York City has found that 80% of the people who get a $50 camera ticket, never get another one.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave is the transportation correspondent for CBS News.