Why is Fairfax Lying About Red Light Cameras?

Fairfax City Councilman Dan Drummond is apparently the official salesman for red light cameras in Northern Virginia. We’d like to know why. Here’s what he said:

Fairfax Councilman Dan Drummond

Fairfax Councilman Dan Drummond

“The city of Fairfax and other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth are not making money off this. It’s purely a safety program…. When we had the program there were about 325 fewer T-bone or side-impact accidents. These are the most dangerous that you can find, as opposed to the rear fender-bender (where) there was a slight increase.”

Really? Look at the actual VDOT data. Overall in Virginia, T-bone or side-impact accidents increased 20%. Increased is the opposite of decreased, Dan. Rear-enders went up 42%. That’s not slight, Dan. Injury accidents increased 18%. Injury accidents are the worst kind, Dan. Total accidents went up 29%. So why are you trying to con the public about this, Dan?

As mentioned in a previous post, Fairfax numbers are problematic because a complete set of “before” accident data is not available. Still, no possible interpretation of Fairfax numbers shows any statistically significant benefit from the use of cameras. A look at some real-life red light camera crashes may also help to expose the magnitude of Dan’s lie:

Minor fender-bender

Minor fender-bender

“A red light camera in Kingsport, Tennessee caused a dump truck to overturn in a massive multicar accident on Wednesday that snarled traffic for hours… The incident was sparked by a vehicle that stopped short at the intersection, presumably to avoid a red light camera citation. According to the Times-News, this surprised Thomas Aaron Johnson, 29, who was following behind in a black 2001 Pontiac Grand Am. To avoid slamming into the car that had suddenly stopped, Johnson swerved into the right-hand lane, side-swiping a 1985 Mack DM6 dump truck driven by Larry Kent Simmons, 56. Simmons himself swerved, hit a third car, overturned and sent his load of dirt all over the road and on top of a parked car.” Full Story.

Or look at this one:

Dan doesn't think this is serious

Dan doesn't think this is serious

“A red light camera in Kingsport, Tennessee caused an accident yesterday that transformed a Honda sedan into an unrecognizable mass of twisted steel. Rescue crews employed the jaws of life to save the victims, two of whom were sent to the hospital where at least one is listed in critical condition…. The incident took place at the intersection of Clinchfield Street and Stone Drive where, last year, Kingsport installed a red light camera. The city hoped that the fear of receiving a ticket would change drivers’ reactions to the traffic signal. In this case, the driver of a blue Honda reacted by stopping short at a yellow light to avoid that ticket. The 18-wheeler behind, however, could not match the smaller car’s braking ability and slammed into the Honda. Kingsport Police Deputy Chief David Quillin told the Times-News last month that he knew accidents like this would happen, but he downplayed their importance.” Full Story.

Cameras kill

Cameras kill

Of course, there are always be those who say on the one hand that cameras are responsible for decreases in accidents, but “it’s not the camera’s fault” when a car is rear-ended. They throw in the platitude that “it’s not like the camera comes down off the pole and kills anyone.”  Well, actually, that HAS happened. Full Story.

Give Dan a call at (703) 218-4090 or an email at ddrummond@fairfaxva.gov to let him know what you think.

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11 Responses to Why is Fairfax Lying About Red Light Cameras?

  1. […] is Fairfax Lying About Red Light Cams? From CameraFRAUD DC: Overall in Virginia, T-bone or side-impact accidents increased 20%. Rear-enders went up 42%. Injury […]

  2. Joe says:

    That first accident in TN:

    The driver of the truck slammed on his brakes to avoid a red light ticket. Presumably because… the light was red? If the guy behind him had otherwise intended to continue at his OWN high rate of speed, that would have been TWO vehicles blasting through a red light. The accident was not caused by the camera, but rather due to 1) speeding and then sudden hard braking and 2) following too closely. The second car was probably barreling down the road and was not ready for a change in his circumstances. I consider this an “inatttentive driving” case. The truck did not cause the accident. Guy #2 did.

  3. capitalfraud says:

    Funny how these accidents “not caused by the camera” happen 42% more often at intersections with the cameras.

    Your presumption that the light was red when the first idiot slammed on his brakes is almost certainly incorrect. The most common scenario in situations like this is that the first car unnecessarily slams on the brakes while the light is yellow but there’s plenty of time to clear the intersection — the cause is the difference in expectations between the driver ahead and the driver following. It’s not particularly “surprising” when the car ahead stops on red.

    Regardless of the Grand Am driver’s failure (ever driven one? The brakes are terrible), the bottom line is that from all indications, this accident would not have happened at an intersection without a camera.

  4. Joe says:

    The following driver is supposed to keep in mind that at any moment, the first driver could choose to stop. Especially when entering a situation with a yellow light being present (and perhaps red). You’ve not seen people panic and stop short at “camera-free” intersections?

    As the second driver, you are not allowed to assume the behavior of the one you follow.

    I’m anti-camera, but I dislike using examples like this as ammunition. These kinds of bullets don’t fly well.

  5. capitalfraud says:

    Joe,
    Answer this question: Would the accident have happened if the camera had not been present?

  6. […] cameras INCREASED traffic accidents in Virginia, click here. 10. February 2009, 10:43 […]

  7. Joe says:

    capitalfraud:

    You’d need to ask driver #1 about his true motivation for stopping. I assume you’ve been driving long enough to know that “he jammed on his brakes” is hardly an acceptable excuse for rear-ending someone. Argue from the place of credibility.

  8. Joe says:

    And if you check out my posts on the main site, you’ll know that I’m anti-camera (all the way).

  9. capitalfraud says:

    Joe:

    Again, would the accident have happened had the camera not been there? In the second example, it was confirmed that car #1 “stopped short on the yellow.” I think the motivation is pretty obvious.

    I’m not providing excuses for anyone or assigning liability. I’m not an insurance agent, so I don’t care about that. As this video shows, panic-brakers can crash even when there are no idiots following too closely.

    And thanks for being anti-camera!

  10. Meredith says:

    Whoa, last I knew the cameras existing in intersections here in Fairfax County were all disabled. Are they in use again?

  11. wertyk says:

    I love this website, the information is great and I have bookmarked it in my favorites. This is a well organized and informative website. Great Job!

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