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Do Red Light Cameras Save Lives?

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Related Stuff Last Updated: 12/06/2008

How those traffic lights cameras are making drivers think – and keeping down their auto insurance premiums.

Can running a red light jack up your car insurance rates with a simple picture?

Can running a red light jack up your car insurance rates with a simple picture?

Red light cameras can be an annoying invention. For those of us who grew up driving without these mounted traffic cops at every intersection, it can be unnerving for a ticket to show up in the mail a month after you drove down a particular street. No, I’ve never been ticketed this way (at least not yet), but I have fought a red-light ticket and won. But that’s another story. Today, it’s all about red light cameras.

Red Light Cameras

A red light camera is a complex camera system triggered by a car running a red light. The camera does not take continuous pictures, but begins capturing images when a car crosses a “red lit” intersection (is that grammatically correct?). Some cameras even allow a split-second grace period after the light turns red, but I wouldn’t count on it if you’re aiming to beat the system. Red light cameras have been around since the 1960s, but did not become widespread until more recently.

Do Red Light Cameras Make Streets Safer?

Which driver hasn’t thought twice about running a red light because of these cameras? I know I have. Evidently, I’m not alone. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, red light cameras have reduced collisions by 30% in a sample of 12 cities. This means that more drivers stopped before dangerously rushing through intersections with a red light camera, than in those without a camera.

Whatever annoyances they may cause, I can’t argue with the numbers. Not only do the cameras seem to be reducing collisions, but they also may be reducing traffic related deaths. In 2006, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported almost 900 people were killed in crashes related to running a red light. An estimated 144,000 were injured in the same sorts of accidents. If red light cameras reduce collisions, no doubt they are saving lives too.

Running Red Lights Can Affect Your Auto Insurance

If you get ticketed for running a red light after the camera caught you, your car insurance premiums could be affected. Insurance companies can count moving violations against you in the same way they count an at-fault collision against you.

Most of the time, it only affects drivers who are shopping for auto insurance. Companies pull driving records for shoppers and the prospective company usually finds red light violations. However, those tickets could also affect premiums with your current insurer. Sometimes auto insurers pull driving records at your renewal. If that’s the case, they could find a red light violation and rate you accordingly.

If you find yourself with a red light ticket, then take Defensive Driving to get it dismissed. If you can’t do that, then hope your insurance company doesn’t see it. You’re not obligated to report the violation to your company. Drive safer, keep a clean record, and that ticket will fall off the insurance company radar in 3 years.

But those cameras are not just about car insurance rates. Even if they seem annoying, they’re there for everyone’s safety. Who knows? They may have even saved your life.

Have you ever been ticketed for running a red light or by a red light camera? Leave a comment about your experience.

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Todd Clay

Todd Clay is a former insurance agent with the largest insurance company in the United States. He earned his Bachelor’s from the University of Texas. He's worked in several fields but has specialized in insurance, financial-related information, and technology. He blogs at Car Insurance Guidebook. Connect with Tood on Google+

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  • Paul


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    The camera in the picture you have posted isn’t a red light camera. It only senses when there is traffic waiting to proceed through the light…


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