Josh Fernandez: Preventing red-light disasters

Red-light cameras offer a reasonable, temporary solution for drivers who disobey traffic laws. One of the perks of warm weather in February is that I finally had no excuses for resuming my jogging routine. I

Red-light cameras offer a reasonable, temporary solution for drivers who disobey traffic laws.

One of the perks of warm weather in February is that I finally had no excuses for resuming my jogging routine.
Josh Fernandez

I sprinted down Front Street and made an immediate right onto Ellsworth Street, and a few blocks later, I came to a traffic light intersection at Moyamensing Avenue and Ellsworth Street. I waited patiently for the light to turn green and grant me my right of way, and once it did this, I began to lightly jog across the street.

However, a driver in a black Honda heading north on Moyamensing seemed to treat the red traffic light as a suggestion. Seeing me cross the street, he slammed on his breaks, stopping almost half way in the intersection. Once the panic wore off, I darted to the east side of Moyamensing, looking back as the driver irrationally looked ticked off and

mumbled, what I assumed to be negative comments, under his breath.

Anyone living in or near Philadelphia knows this occurrence isn’t necessarily rare, but it shouldn’t happen in the first place.

Stop signs and traffic lights are not suggestions, yet many drivers nationwide treat them, which is why an increased use of devices such as red-light cameras could help deter careless driving that could produce devastating results – at least until society addresses the poor decision-making of drivers who stroll through red-lights and stop signs.

The problem isn’t specific to Philadelphia and neither is the red-light camera solution.

According to a news release by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, red-light cameras saved 159 lives in 14 large U.S. cities from 2004 to 2008.

The release also reported that during that five-year period, cities that installed red-light cameras had 35 percent fewer fatal red-light running crashes than they did from 1992 to 1996 without the cameras.

The IIHS’s red-light camera study used traffic accident statistics from 99 U.S. cities with populations of 200,000 or greater. The U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2008, estimates Philadelphia’s population at approximately 1,450,000.

A 2009 crash facts and statistics study by the Pennsylvania Transportation Authority reports Philadelphia as the most populated county in Pennsylvania and also among the top counties for reported traffic crashes and traffic-related deaths.

To get Philadelphia out of the latter two Top 10 categories, city officials ought to consider installing more red-light cameras.

The idea that a traffic light would be monitoring vehicles in this way may seem like it’s teetering on the “1984,” Big Brother line. However, Philadelphia has a reputation as a walk-able city, and maintaining that reputation means making it safe to walk across the street for pedestrians when they have the right of way.

There certainly are problematic elements to red-light cameras. For example, in September 2010, Wilmington, Del., officials used technology for red-light cameras to catch drivers who fail to stop when turning right on red.

When traffic light turn signals are short timed or scarce, drivers immediately make left turns even though the opposing traffic flow has the right of way.

The intersection at Concord Pike and Naamans Road is the worst – there’s a left-light turn signal, but it’s short, causing a backup for every driver trying to make the left to go to the Concord Mall. Up until September 2010, drivers would mercilessly continue turning seconds after the left-light turn signal was red.

Drivers, such as my parents, who do not live in Delaware and weren’t aware of the change, made this turn as the signal turned red and received a fat fine in the mail along with the photo of their car turning.

Left turns in Philadelphia at intersections like these are equally frustrating. However, the safety of the driver in question and the people with whom they share the road is more important than rushing to make the left turn for whatever reason.

There are a total of 15 intersections for red-light cameras in Philadelphia, with nine throughout Roosevelt Boulevard, four stretched out on Broad Street and the remaining two located in West Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Parking Authority reported in August 2010 that the 70 cameras in these 15 locations resulted in a total of 127,514 citations and 5,605 warnings issued for red-light violations.

Those 5,605 warnings and 127,514 pricey citations were probably less than appreciated, but those individuals are probably less likely to repeat the violation, making those respected locations a little safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.

Josh Fernandez can be reached at

1 Comment

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