Red light camera position paper

Posted by Ministry of Transport on 17 July 2013

An Auckland trial of red light cameras and international evidence shows that red light cameras are an effective safety tool to reduce crashes attributable to red light running and the incidence of red light running generally.

The Red Light Camera Position Paper therefore concludes that red light cameras can be used as a road safety tool as long as they are:

  • targeted to risk
  • considered within a safe system framework
  • deployed in a cost-effective manner.

Site selection criteria have been developed to ensure that red light cameras are implemented when they are likely to be the best safety tool to enable the best safety outcome. There must be an established crash record arising from red light running behaviour or a significant risk of fatal or serious casualties.

Complementary interventions must also be assessed before considering the use of a red light camera. This requires an understanding of why people run red lights.

Using the site selection criteria and considering other interventions should ensure that red light cameras are deployed in the most cost effective manner.  The NZ Transport Agency will also review and refine the site selection criteria to ensure red light cameras are only implemented when they are the best safety tool for the intersection.

The Position Paper also promotes future investment in wireless/radar based technology that could encompass dual red light/speed cameras. Deploying wireless/radar based technology will generate capital and operating cost savings compared to the current older technology.

Police are working to update their IT framework to be able to receive, store and process the considerable increase in digital images that will be generated from the implementation of new wireless/radar based speed cameras and red light cameras.

In the meantime, Police and Auckland Transport are working together to consider whether there are other suitable high-risk intersections that could be covered by the existing cameras.

More information on the Red Light Camera Position Paper can be found on this page, or by clicking one of the links in the resources section or the questions and answers link at the end of this page.

Resources

Background

Developing a national policy on red light cameras was identified as an initiative in the Safer Journeys Action Plan 2011-2012.

Development of the red light camera position paper involved assessing New Zealand and international evidence of the effectiveness of red light cameras in reducing red light running and related intersection crashes. An inter-agency group, led by the Ministry of Transport, worked through the key components involved in developing the Position Paper. These include:

  • site selection principles
  • management of, and responsibility for, red light cameras
  • funding
  • quality control protocols for approving, maintaining and operating the devices.

New Zealand evidence

Red light running is a contributing factor in many intersection crashes. Between 2008 and 2012 there were 11 fatalities, 169 serious injuries and 1466 minor injuries at signalised urban intersections where red light running was a contributing factor (see table in Q&A section). Seventy-six percent of these casualties were from right-angle crashes (i.e. one vehicle hitting another side-on). The average annual social cost of these crashes was $43 million.

In 2008, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (now Auckland Transport) began a pilot study which trialled the use of red light cameras. The cameras were placed at sites that had the greatest risk of red light running crashes and therefore where the potential benefits of changing driver behaviour might also be greatest.

An evaluation of the Auckland trial, released in September 2011, reported the following results from intersections where red light cameras were deployed:

  • an average 43 percent reduction in red light running
  • an average 69 percent decrease in crashes attributable to red light running

Information gathered during the Auckland trial has been considered in the development of this Position Paper. 

Read the Auckland Red Light Camera Project Evaluation Report.

International evidence

In 2009, the Ministry commissioned a literature review on the effectiveness of red light cameras in overseas jurisdictions. The literature shows that red light running is a safety issue and is related to crash types with a high likelihood of injury.

The literature review noted that red light cameras are effective in reducing red light running and the associated crashes. However, the review also identified that red light cameras may also result in an increase in rear end crashes. It also noted that other interventions could also be effective at reducing red light running.

International evidence shows that certain types of driver are more likely to run red lights, suggesting that education and awareness campaigns would be effective. There are also certain characteristics common to intersections associated with red light running. This suggests that engineering and traffic light timing changes are important tools to improve intersection safety and should be considered prior to red light camera installation.

As well as education and engineering interventions, the review noted several other complementary interventions to improve safety at signalised intersections. These interventions include signage (advising of lights ahead), and Police enforcement (officers on the roads). Ongoing evaluation after installation should also be undertaken.

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