For the first time ever, a national study has been conducted on fatal red light running crash rates and the role red light cameras play in reducing these numbers. Its findings are dramatic.
The study, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found fatal crash rates involving red light running were reduced by 24 percent in the 14 largest U.S. cities using cameras from 2004-2008, including Washington D.C., Chicago, Phoenix and San Diego.
Here in the East Valley, Chandler saw a 79 percent decrease in its fatal crash rate - the highest reduction in the cities studied.
During that same time, lives were saved in these cities because of cameras while more lives could have been saved had red light cameras been used in every large city in the United States.
A vocal minority believe it's their right to break the law and run red lights without the risk of accountability. They think red light cameras are somehow a violation of their personal rights and an intrusion of "Big Brother." They portray red light runners as victims, when in fact the real victims are those injured or killed because someone selfishly or carelessly chooses to run through a red light instead of stopping. Family members and friends also suffer.
Traffic safety laws are not optional. They exist to protect the health and safety of all of us and keep our roads safe for drivers, passengers, pedestrians and others. Cities should be taking advantage of red light cameras and every other technology available to ensure these laws are followed and enforced.
Gov. Jan Brewer and the Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance have proclaimed the month of March as "Red Light Running Awareness Month" in Arizona.
Red light running continues to be an uncontrolled epidemic, and one way or another, adults need to understand a simple rule that children know by heart: "Red means stop." Since the death of my daughter, Jennifer, 14 years ago by a red light runner, I have been an advocate for tougher laws dealing with this issue, as well as providing law enforcement with all the tools available to prevent red light running crashes. In my opinion, that means stiffer fines and more cameras on our roadways.
The decision to utilize photo enforcement technology is one that is best left to those local city government officials who directly represent our interests, along with input from citizens like you and me. Let's make sure our interests are represented, and decisions on this critical matter - literally one of life and death - are kept close to home.
• Frank Hinds is co-founder of Red Means Stop. After his daughter, Jennifer, was killed on March 16, 1997, Hinds became an advocate for tougher laws, and in March 1999, "Jennifer's Law" was passed which now charges red-light runners who maim or kill as criminals in Arizona; levies fines of up to $1,000; requires community service, suspension of driver's license, and sometimes jail time; and can require restitution to victims' families of up to $10,000.