Monday, December 29, 2008

Houston Report on Red Light Enforcement Cameras

The report on red light camera effectiveness has been released by the City of Houston. There is some interesting data amongst its pages. It really is a mixed bag of information. The intersections must be observed for a longer time to see if there is more conclusive evidence. There are people who believe some tinkering with the data by the City of Houston has corrupted the information and their conclusions. This is Houston's report based on the Rice University study. We expect similar results here in The Woodlands and Montgomery County, so the data might very well be representative of our use of cameras as well. I asked for the local information but so far, received no reply from the county.

Just today, I observed an automobile here in The Woodlands speeding up to run a light perpendicular to Woodlands Parkway. It was one of those cases where the driver put the pedal to the metal to get through the light quickly (my guess was that the car was traveling 60+ mph after passing through the light. The driver immediately entered a commercial area where cars are vulnerable to side collisions by speeding vehicles. The light was totally red before the car even entered the intersection. There is no record of that event (except of course for this article), no photograph, no fine, nothing. It was very dangerous for the car running the light and the automobiles coming down Woodlands Parkway about to enter the intersection. Why do people do that? There is a fable about rear-end collisions that justifies the means for some folks. This is one reason we need these intersections monitored. Having the data to understand driving behaviors and having a means to dissuade law breakers from breaking the law is important in this society and in this place. Some drivers are reckless, putting others in harm's way. I've seen it a hundred times over. After a while one thinks he can make his own conclusions on the matter without a lot of data, but in reality, we don't know it all and have to seek statistics that are meaningful and unbiased so we can understand if this current initiative of ours is actually doing some good. It appears so from the Houston data.

There is generally plenty of time to stop after a light turns yellow. However, if one is almost already in the intersection, then there is no need for the driver to speed up; just pass through. If there is time to stop, then commit to a stop when the signal is yellow. If you don't know if you have time, take a course in driving. It is taught everywhere. One can actually use a counting system to take the guesswork out of the decision. That method is taught in driving class 101, not exactly rocket science either. One day all autos will hopefully have a built-in detector that says whether to proceed or to stop. Instead, we have people installing warning systems in their cars so that they can break the law when there is no monitoring camera system.
(1) Channel 11 PDF document - the Houston Report
(2) Chronicle article on same subject matter


BigTexN said...

The Chronicle article states "Since September 2006, the cameras have led to at least 387,000 citations and generated more than $20 million in revenue."

But its not about the revenue?


Then why not skip the fine and require those light runners to take a driver's safety course, hmmm?

Answer: You can't rake in $20 million in 3 years doing that...but its not about the money...but it is...but not really.

BigTexN said...

BTW, when we can find the time to get distracted from generating revenue from red light cameras...could someone PLEASE use some of that new found revenue to lengthen the turn lanes on Woodlands Pkwy?

I hate having my rear end sticking out onto the main lanes ready to get crushed by traffic trying to get around those trying to turn left off of Woodklands Parkway.

I've gotta think this is a bigger traffic safety issue than taking candids at red lights.

BigTexN said...

I had the unique experience of driving eastbound on Woodlands Parkway between Flintridge and Gosling during the morning rush hour.

WOW! It took 15 minutes to go that quarter mile into the sun.


Left turn lanes off of Woodlands Parkway onto Gosling northbound.

Lets have the concrete curbs in those left hand lands ground down so left turners can wait on the shoulder rather backing up on the main lanes.

Easy low cost immediate fix until longer term plans can be had.