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Engineer's Report for March 23 Meeting

The Hermosa Beach Public Works Commission heard a staff report at their March 23, 2005 meeting.  The following report, indicated as being from Ray Abassi, the City's contract traffic engineer,  was an attachment to that staff report.

The following is a report presented to the Hermosa Beach (California) Public Works Commission, at their meeting of March 23, 2005.

It has been OCR'd from a copy of the original.  Mistakes / typos  / missing  footnotes  in the original are indicated by [sic].


January 17, 2005

Prepared by:

AAE Incorporated
601 Valencia Avenue, Suite 250
Brea, CA 92823
Tel:  (714) 940-0100
Fax: (714) 940-0700

The incidence of motorists entering an intersection when the traffic signal has turned red is a significant safety concern across the county. A violation occurs when a motorist enters an intersection (often deliberately) some time after the signal light has turned red. According to California Vehicle Code CVC 21453 (a), a motorist violates the red-light traffic law by crossing the limit line and proceeding through an intersection after the light has turned red. However, motorists inadvertently in an intersection when the signal changes to red aren’t considered to be red-light runners.

Red-light-running is considered to be a significant problem across the country. More than half of the deaths in red-light-running crashes are other motorists and pedestrians, so there is no debate that red-light-runners are dangerous drivers who irresponsibly put others at risk. In 1997, slightly more than 44% of the fatalities at signalized intersections were attributed to red-light-running. In the year 2000, throughout the state of California, 25,014 crashes were attributed to red-light violations, causing 93 fatalities and 14,868 injuries.

As a result of numerous crashes and tragedies, the American public is deeply concerned with the recent increase in red-light-running. Most Americans (96 percent) are afraid of being hit by a red-light runner, but nearly, one in five admit to running a red light in the last ten intersections. The leading excuse given for red light running was neither frustration nor road rage, it was “being in a hurry”. One in three people claim they personally know someone who has been injured or killed in a red-light-running crash -­similar to the percentage of people who know someone who was killed or injured by a drunk driver.

The financial cost to the public due to accidents attributed to red-light-running was estimated to exceed $14 billion per year in the United States. The California Highway Patrol estimates that each red light running fatality costs $2,600,000 and other red-light­-running crashes cost between $2,000 and $ 1,83,000, [sic] depending on severity. Despite such catastrophic consequences, only a small fraction of red-light runners faces any punishment.

There is a wide range of potential countermeasures to the red-light-running problem.

1.         Engineering Countermeasures

Engineering countermeasures are intended to reduce the chances of a driver being in a position where she must decide whether or not to run the red indication. There are three types of engineering countermeasures that are known to reduce red-light-running.

a)         Improvement in Signal Operation

b)         Improvement of Motorist Information

c)         Physical Improvement of the Intersection

2.         Enforcement Countermeasures

Enforcement countermeasures are intended to encourage adhering drivers to the traffic laws through the threat of citation and possible fine. To deploy a red-light-camera technology, is considered to be a countermeasure of this category.

3.         Education

To educate the people to inform about the significant concern of red-light-running and its serious consequences, can help to warn the red-light-runners and reduce the frequency of red-light-running.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has identified red-light-cameras as a measure to be considered when addressing intersection crashes in conjunction with any other needed mitigation measures including engineering improvements. The manual enforcement of the traffic law with physical presence of a police officer can be automated by readily available vehicle detection and camera surveillance technology.

In the year 2004 at least 100 U.S. communities in 19 states including California, deployed the red-light-camera technology. More than 50 jurisdictions in California are known to have installed red-light-cameras. A few examples of the Southern California cities are:

a) Beverly Hills   b) Cerritos      c) Costa Mesa    d) Fullerton   e) Garden Grove  f)   Irvine   g) Long Beach  h) Los Angeles City  i) Montebello  j) Oxnard  k) Pasadena   l) San Diego   m) San Juan Capistrano   n) Santa Ana   o) Santa Clarita  p)  South Gate   q) Ventura   r) West Hollywood   s) Whittier

Various benefits are achieved through installing.

a)  Reduction in accident frequency

An Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) study published in 2002 evaluated a red-light-running camera program in Oxnard, California. The result showed that signalized intersections in Oxnard experienced a statistically significant 32% reduction in right-angle crashes and a significant 68% reduction in right-angle injury crashes. The study provides evidence that red-light-cameras (RLC) in the United States (specifically in California) can reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes, in particular injury crashes, at intersections with traffic signals.

Other studies including a National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) study published in 2003 concludes that there is considerable evidence that red-light-cameras (RLC) do have an overall positive effect. Most of the studies and analyses have shown “observed” reductions in angle crashes.

b)  Savings in “Societal Cost”

A report published in January 2005 showed that U.S. cities could potentially save millions of dollars in injury and societal costs by using red-light-camera photo enforcement technology. Researchers estimate total societal cost reductions for the entire red-light-camera jurisdiction studied to be over $14 million per year. It was also found that an average red-light-camera location in the U.S. results in $38,000 a year in reduced societal costs.

c)  Continuous monitoring at multiple locations

Police officers conducting traditional enforcement at intersections can issue citations to drivers when they are observed violating the law. But enforcement of red light violations by police officers can be difficult. To catch a motorist running a red light, an officer must actually observe the violation. Even if an officer is present, pursuing the violation may put other motorists and pedestrians, as well as the officer, at risk of a collision.

d)  Over-all safety benefits

Knowing red-light-cameras (RLC) are being used in the community encourages drivers to stop for red lights, whether or not an intersection is equipped with a camera.

e)  Revenue earned by the local government

A study published in July 2002 by California State Bureau of State Audits (6), [sic] showed that most local government red-light-camera programs operate at the break-even point or at a slight loss. However, two out of studied seven [sic] local governments (San Diego and Oxnard) generated significant cumulative net revenues from their red-light-camera programs.