Red Light Cameras: Letter To Council

Active d Red Light Camera Enforcement Systems green sheets here.

My letter to council is after the break. Any questions?

Acting Village Manager Dave Fieldman,

Mayor, Council, Staff:

My name is Mark Thoman, 1109 61st Street. Work will prevent me from attending the July 8 workshop meeting, but I respectfully ask the following be placed in the public record for that meeting.

I believe Chief Porter and his department are sincere in their desire, and effective in their efforts, to provide residents a safe and secure village, and they have consistently been acknowledged for their excellence in that area, most recently Chief Porter himself.

None of the following comments should be taken as an attempt to portray Chief Porter or his department as anything less than completely dedicated public servants, and I take personal exception to any attempt to say I am doing that.

His report on recommending Red light cameras for safety reasons, and the staff supplied green sheets on the same, fail for the simple reason that only the IIHS and red light camera companies will provide any evidence that RLC reduce crashes. The two base studies, the IIHS Oxnard CA and the Iowa DOT studies (that have morphed into multiple citations over the years), have themselves been discredited by several state and federally funded studies that have found either no statistical change, or and (sp) overall increase in crashes and injuries at camera intersections.

Red light cameras may provide temporary revenue streams. RLCs result in a net increase in both overall accidents within 100 feet of a RLC intersection, and increased overall injuries as a result of those accidents. That has been proven in study after study, and when the IIHS has attempted to refute any of those studies, the rebuttals have proven them wrong in their attacks every time. Every time.

Talk about RLC in terms of potential revenue generation. To accurately do that you will need to know where to put the cameras.

  • What intersections have had long term village conducted traffic studies of accident/injury rates?
  • What engineering steps have been taken at those intersections to reduce accidents and injuries?
  • Has there been any follow up study correlating accident/injury rates before and after the engineering improvements?

Specific to the green sheets for this topic:

  1. The Strategic Plan Alignment ties RLC to “Preservation of Our Residential and Neighborhood Character. A supporting objective of this goal is Maintain Safe and Secure Neighborhoods.” Red Light Cameras have not been proposed for deployment in neighborhoods, have they? How does a RLC preserve the Character of our neighborhoods? If you are going to try and align this to the strategic plan, please use a more pertinent section of that plan, if there is one.
  2. Background. As I have said before, all the alleged claims that RLC reduce accidents are simply that: alleged claims. The IIHS Oxnard or Iowa DOT studies, have been contradicted by every other state or federal government funded study. Currently, Oxnard CA has the second highest auto accident rate in CA, and no community in Iowa has endorsed the IDOT study.
  3. Background. Reduction of vehicular accidents. The IIHS used FHA 2007 figures to report violation of traffic control devices accounted for 22% of all collisions and 24% of these were attributed specifically to running the red light. The percentages can be misleading because you must know to multiply 22% by 24% to understand the IIHS is saying red light running caused 5% of crashes in the urban areas referenced, not 24%, or 25% as the green sheets indicate. This is not staff’s fault: the IIHS does not make this clear. The statistics as presented by the IIHS could lead to belief running red lights causes one of every four crashes, instead of something closer to one in twenty. Simply omitting a piece of data, a 5% reduction in right angle collisions becomes a 25% reduction. This is a typical example of how the IIHS distorts information that it presents to governmental and police organizations.
  4. Since they don’t reduce accidents, but instead have a documented history of increased overall accident/injury rates within 100 feet of an intersection, RLC will increase time and personnel demands on the Police Department responding to accidents, rather than reduce those demands.
  5. The administrative hearing process indicates that 100-200 tickets would be heard each month. At an average ticket of $30, as quoted by RedSpeed, DG would gross $72,000 per year. At a quoted 5 minutes per ticket hearing, plenty of time for a fair hearing, that would mean each of those bi-monthly meetings would potentially last 8 1/3 hours. That doesn’t count the time taken to figure out whether or not to give the ticket. Lets say half just pay up. 50 tickets would equal 4 hours, twice a month.
  6. Later under Revenue Analysis it is projected that the tickets will be not $30 but $100. The $24,909 monthly revenue generated is gross revenue. After a mid range estimated expense of $231,600 annually, or $19,666 monthly, DG would collect slightly over $5,000 per month before our expenses for personnel. Factor in hearing expenses, and where does that leave us? How does this compare with other communities that have installed RLC?

If you choose to cite safety as a reason for RLC’s, a prudent first step is independent, quantitative intersection studies, with published results that can be analyzed both before and after deployment of RLC at those same intersections.

If you choose to be pragmatic and look into this as a revenue enhancer, you need to analyze which intersections have the highest traffic rates. You should also compile and analyze information on other communities’ revenue results for similar intersections in similar situations. There have been no references to studies I can find that have been done at possible target intersections to establish a baseline statistical set of accident/injury data.

You also have to decide what set of ticket data to base hearing time and expenses from. So far, it’s either going to be really expensive (based on 100-200 tickets per month), or even more really expensive (at 382 tickets per month).

I ask that council direct staff to do additional research and find any of the following reports, which are all available on-line.

I ask that you read the reference materials; I ask that you treat this topic with transparency and honesty. I think staff has proven they can provide that accurate unbiased information.

The IIHS Oxnard, CA study:

The 2007 Iowa State University’s Center for Transportation Research and Education study (also called the Iowa DOT study:

USDOT FHA Executive Summary:

The 2008 USF College of Public Health study:

The first 2005 Virginia Transportation Research Council (A Cooperative Organization Sponsored Jointly by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the University of Virginia) study final report:

The second 2007 VDOT final report on The Impact of Red Light Cameras (Photo-Red Enforcement) on Crashes in Virginia:

The 2004 study A Detailed Investigation of Crash Risk Reduction Resulting From Red Light Cameras in Small Urban Areas, Transportation Institute at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University:

The 1995 Australian Road Research Board 10 year before/after study:

The TRB’s Multijurisdictional Safety Evaluation of Red Light Cameras study:π=3

The TRB’s Implementing Red Light Camera Programs: Guidance from Economic Analysis of Safety Benefits report:π=2

The Washington Posts statistical analysis of RLD in Washington DC:

The HIGHWAY SAFETY DESK BOOK, prepared by the Highway Safety Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police:

A 2008 Lubbock TX Public Works presentation to council on their Red Light Camera program:

There’s more. Many reports and newspaper articles are cross referenced at

As I hopefully have made clear, I am not opposed to Red Light Cameras as a temporary revenue source, but I am skeptical they will do anything to enhance safety at our busiest intersections, and I am casting no aspersions on the integrity or intent of our Police Department’s desire and efforts to provide for a safe and secure Downers Grove.

I urge you to table this item pending significant further study and assembly of baseline data on which to make realistic revenue projections. Thank you for your time and consideration on this item.

Mark Thoman

1109 61st Street


8 Responses to “Red Light Cameras: Letter To Council”

  1. Senior Grover Says:

    Keep up the good work Mr. T. There are many who value your independent thinking. Mayor Sandack’s “theatrics and drama and cool hystrionics” remarks on TV were maligning specifically you again?
    Just so you know, many of us sat behind you and the Mayor last year when he insulted you repeatedly before a council meeting on the construction trash center. Mr.Tully at the time looked very concerned at what was transpiring in front of so many people. He could see all of us listening to that rubbish.
    None of my neighbors have forgotten that.

  2. markthoman Says:

    Thank you, SG. I listened to the podcast tonight. While I think RS’ comments were directed to my letter, which I wrote and sent without much editing, I wouldn’t characterize them as malicious. I think he enjoys poking at me like that.

    His points made about privacy, the cop with on the scene judgement, unease with the big brother aspects, all have been raised before in other state lawsuit cases, and the concepts certainly should be discussed by council. My concern has been not the legality; I leave for now to lawyers like RS; but the objectivity of the need and the efficacy of the proposed solution.

  3. research associate Says:

    Unless you have a PhD in statistics as our researchers do and know what Basian statistical models are to evaluate before and after studies adn automated enforcement, I would be very careful coming to conclusions on federal studies and critizing other studies that you cannot explain fully.

  4. markthoman Says:

    I do not have a PhD in Statistics, that’s why I have been very careful-thank you for noticing.

    Since you do not address the issue at all, but caution a PhD in Statistics is a requirement for discussing questionable safety studies, you must then agree with the overwhelming majority of expert studies by people who do have the proper qualifications, but who do not work for the insurance industry, or for companies that provide RLCs.

    It’s Bayes theorem, and Bayesian analysis. Given the data set, what’s the probability it has certain characteristics. The main problem with Bayesian analysis is that it makes subjective assumptions about the prior nature of the data being observed. The problem is where (or, perhaps, from whom) the prior probability distributions originate. Maybe they make subjective informative priors.

    I linked to all the studies I could, and the frank analysis provided by authors of the studies themselves. I trust them more than someone on a mission, endorsed by a Research Associate who can’t spell Bayesian.

  5. markthoman Says:

    And as I have said before, I’m not necessarily against RLC, just let’s do it with our eyes open, for the right reasons.

  6. Chooreile Says:

    I agreed with you

  7. james Says:

    Hey great article and great points that even the VDOT report made about safety. I hope that youll be talking to our legislators this session coming up in January. I will be in richmond jan 14 for the Real ID rally and will spend my day talking to each and every legislator about many issues includeing this on. They want to install ten of these here in VA beach and I think its crazy. I have been around the country that have had these in and people SLAMM!!! on the brakes at those intersections. AS I can understand nobody wants ticket. The other train of thought is to hurry and speed through the intersection to hurry and beat to camera to the other side. I have huge reservations about the privacy part as well. In a article in the the Red Light Camera corperations wanted to link there cams up and share the live feed data to the DHS/FEDS, you know get those stolen cars and amber alert. Its called mission creep. I hope we can repeal the law that allowed them to be installed again last year. Im not in favor of red light runners and have only seen a few worth ticketing in the last 8 years. I dont want to get rear ended and dont want a ticket so what do you do when someone behind you looks like hes not slowing down? If you have plans to lobby legislators please email me and let me know as I would love to help.

  8. Barnet Fagel Says:

    I know I am late to your post, but I wanted to offer some applicable thoughts. You can pass laws, but you will have a hard time changing honest human nature. There is a difference between truth and fiction, fiction has to make sense.
    I am the Illinois Traffic Safety Advocate/Researcher for the National Motorists Association.
    contact me

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