Cameras aimed at catching drivers who run red lights may also help prevent collisions and injuries, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The study focused on Oxnard, Calif., which installed cameras at 11 of its 125 intersections in 1997. Since then, the study found that the number of collisions throughout Oxnard went down 7 percent and crashes resulting in injuries dropped 29 percent.
The study, which was to be released Thursday, did not say how many of the accidents that occurred were the direct result of running red lights.
An earlier study by the institute found that red light running dropped by about 40 percent in Oxnard and in Fairfax, Va., after camera enforcement began.
Neither study has established a definite correlation between using the cameras and preventing collision and injury. But the latest study says the presence of the cameras may have led to "general changes in motorists' behavior," resulting in fewer accidents.
Oxnard Assistant Chief of Police Tom Cady said Wednesday that the public is very aware of the cameras, and that they seem to be making a difference.
He said in the four years before the cameras were installed, Oxnard averaged two fatal collisions a year involving someone running a red light. In the four year since they were installed, red light runners were involved in just two fatal collisions.
Red light cameras are used in about 50 cities in the United States, according to the insurance institute. The cameras snap a photograph of a vehicle's license plate and, in some states, the driver when a red light is violated.
The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed privacy concerns over the use of the pictures, but does not oppose the cameras in general.
The institute estimates more than 800 people are killed and 200,000 are injured annually in the United States in crashes that involve the running of red lights.
By ED GARSTEN
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