Recently, American Traffic Solutions, the company that makes millions of dollars from Murrieta’s red-light camera program, mailed a flyer to voters urging them to vote no on Proposition N, the measure to ban the cams in Murrieta. Not only is this self serving mailer filled with distortions about the effectiveness of Murrieta’s red light camera program but it shamefully attempts to capitalize on the tragedy endured by the friends and family of people killed or injured in red-light running accidents by cruelly suggesting that red-light cameras would have saved the lives of these unfortunate souls, something that is simply not true.
First, ATS exploits the death of Deborah Parsons-Mason, killed in a collision caused by a drunk driver who had a blood alcohol concentration of more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit. ATS similarly uses a collision involving Jacy Good which resulted from a distracted driver using a cell phone, as well as the death of Marcus May-Cook which was caused by an unlicensed 17 yr old driver who never even had a driver’s permit. These stories are heartbreaking to read, but a careful examination of the circumstances surrounding these collisions makes clear what we have been saying all along – the most deadly red-light running crashes occur long after the light has turned red and are almost exclusively the result of impairment, distraction, fatigue or evading the police, not an attempt by some drivers to rush the yellow light. The sad truth is that impaired, distracted and fatigued drivers sometimes also run red lights causing fatalities, but red-light cameras have virtually no effect in preventing these types of late-into-red accidents and this cynical attempt by the camera industry to profit from such tragedies is unconscionable.
But these types of tactics are to be expected from an industry who sues citizens to prevent them from voting and are known to play fast and loose with the facts. For instance, their flyer claims that, “In 2005 11 people died in red light crashes in Murrieta. In 2008 and 2009 that number dropped to 1.” Not only is this false, it’s a complete fabrication. The truth is that in 2005, there were 11 fatal collisions within the borders of the city and none were caused by red light running. In fact, since at least 2001 there have been no fatalities in Murrieta where the primary cause of the collision was red light running. That’s right, zero. All eleven fatalities in 2005 were caused by impaired drivers with almost half occurring on the highway, not on Murrieta city streets. Although these fatalities have nothing whatsoever to do with whether red light cameras have improved safety in Murrieta, ATS included this fake statistic in their mailer hoping voters would be fooled into supporting their ticketing scam.
Likewise, the ATS flyer makes the claim that “Red light cameras have reduced broadside collisions in Murrieta by 66%” - also not true. This is another camera industry tactic to trick the public by discussing broadside collisions, not red light running collisions, often two very different things. The fact is that most broadside collisions are in no way associated with red light running since many don’t occur at signalized intersections. But even when you do analyze broadside collisions, you find that the 66% claim is a lie. In 2005, the year before the first cameras were installed, there were 173 broadside collisions throughout Murrieta; in 2010 after about five years of camera usage, there were 164. Not only is this not a 66% decrease, it’s not even a statistically significant difference. In fact, no matter how you parse the numbers, it’s virtually impossible to find a 66% change in broadside collisions during any comparative time periods. Meanwhile, at the camera enforced intersections, broadside collisions more than doubled in the four years after the cameras were installed compared to four years before, increasing from 8 to 18. But none of this really matters because analyzing broadside collisions is meaningless when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of red light cameras and the camera industry knows it. Yet they continue to spread this misinformation in a carefully crafted scheme to deceive the public.
The truth is this: At red light camera enforced intersections in Murrieta, red light running collisions increased somewhere between 78% and 120% and rear end collisions increased between 200% and 325%. No amount of deceptive, profit driven, camera industry mailers featuring stock photos of babies in car seats is going to change these facts. Hopefully, on Election Day, the voters of Murrieta will see through the ATS smokescreen and vote to ban the cameras.