A comprehensive study of crashes at intersections finds the numbers of wrecks and deaths gradually falling over the past five years, in Iowa and nationwide. David Kelly, executive director of National Coalition for Safer Roads, attributes much of the progress to something many drivers hate, automated red light cameras.

“The rate of people getting tickets in red light fatal crashes was down dramatically,” Kelly says. “That is probably the single factor that is determining what is happening at intersections. We know that there are fewer people running red lights and getting tickets and that is driving the decrease down in fatalities at intersections.”

Five Iowa cities are using red light cameras: Cedar Rapids, Clive, Council Bluffs, Davenport and Sioux City. Davenport announced this week that the cameras netted the city more than one-million dollars last year through 40,000 citations.

 “Red light cameras are a proven, effective countermeasure for law enforcement to use,” Kelly says. “They make sense to use where you know you have an intersection that has a high volume of crashes where you have a lot of people who are running the red lights where it is a dangerous driving behavior.”

While the cameras are clearly a benefit, he notes they shouldn’t be the only tool police are using to make intersections safer.

“Law enforcement needs to be out there visibly manning intersections, making sure people aren’t (running red lights),” Kelly says. “You can’t have a law enforcement program that is solely using cameras. You have to have a combination of both and you have to give law enforcement every opportunity and every tool to enforce the laws.”

He notes, two-thirds of the people who are killed in intersection crashes aren’t in the vehicles that run the red lights. They’re pedestrians, bicyclists and people in the other cars that had the right of way. Kelly is the former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

See more on the study here: www.nsc.org/Pages/IntersectionFatalitiesDeclining.aspx