Accident numbers up since red-light cameras were shut down in Albuquerque

By Louisa Gonzales / CJ 475 Reporter
Posted Oct. 25, 2012

Red-light cameras have been gone for a whole year now and since then, accident numbers have seen an increase at the 20 most dangerous intersections in Albuquerque.

Better or worse without cameras?
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By Louisa Gonzales

One year without red light cameras and accident numbers at intersections increase.

In October of 2011 there was a non-binding vote in the City of Albuquerque about whether red-light cameras should stay or go. Citizens by a margin of 53 to 47 percent voted against the red-light cameras. Although, it was a non-binding vote, the city council and the mayor removed all the red-light cameras.

The red-light cameras were initially installed for traffic safety reasons, according to the Commander of the Metro Traffic Division of the Albuquerque Police Department, Eric Garcia.

"It had been shown in other cities to reduce the number of accidents. I believe Red Flex (the red-light camera providers) is out of Arizona and that is where a lot of the data came from. It was shown to decrease the number of accidents at the intersections," Garcia said.

The idea of red-light cameras is a controversial topic in Albuquerque. According to Garcia, citizens either liked the red-light cameras or didn't like them, but, personally, Garcia thinks they work in decreasing accident numbers. He said since they've been gone, there has been a spike in the number of accidents at the intersections. Fourth-grade teacher of Chaparral Elementary School Belinda Archuleta agrees.

"I would prefer to have the cameras, just for instance on Montano Road. Since they've been gone, I just really feel people are just kind of running the red lights even more so than they were before. So, I think it would be a good idea if they were put back up," Archuleta said.

Following the controversy of red-light cameras, the city decided to investigate whether or not they worked. The study was given to the University of New Mexico, Institutes of Social Research lead by Research Scientist Paul Guerin. The investigation is one of the nation's most well-done studies on red-light cameras. The conclusion of the study found, overall, red-light cameras did help in reducing the number of accidents, but not in all the intersections.

"So rear-end crashes might increase, but the more costly and injurious right-angle crashes decrease. So, overall there's a benefit. So, we also find this varies by intersections. So, some intersections crashes increase and the cost of crashes increase. So, the red-light cameras appear to not improve safety in all the intersections, just in some with an overall improvement," Guerin said.

As of June 2012, the Albuquerque Police Department Traffic Division data shows 518 accidents at the former red-light camera intersections. Garcia expects that to be doubled by the end of this year, which will result with an increase from the previous year when the red-light cameras were up and running.