Should auto insurance companies offer a red-light camera discount?

If red-light cameras reduce accidents, they should mean lower insurance rates as well, according to leaders from two Florida communities. Juno Beach has passed a measure and Pembroke Pines is considering a measure calling for lower insurance rates for their drivers because those two cities have red-light cameras. Community leaders argue that these cameras reduce the number of insurance claims -- and auto insurance companies should pass those savings on to their residents.
Meanwhile, Juno Beach, a city in Palm Beach County, passed its resolution in July. The resolution cites studies that tie accident reduction to red-light cameras -- and calls on insurers to lower rates for drivers who reside in live in jurisdictions that use the cameras. Pembroke Pines (south of Fort Lauderdale) is looking at an ordinance like the one approved in Juno Beach.
All in favor

Safety groups and some studies echo the belief that red-light cameras reduce accidents. Cameras saved nearly 160 lives between 2004 and 2008 in 14 large U.S. cities, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). If cameras had been operating during this time in all large cities, 815 deaths would have been prevented, IIHS estimates.
About 500 U.S. cities have red-light cameras, according to IIHS, compared with about 25 in 2000. Just knowing that an intersection is enforced by the cameras is enough to defer would-be red-light runners. And the cameras make things safer for law enforcement as well, according to IIHS. To catch violators at intersections without cameras, police officers must run the red light themselves in pursuit, putting motorists in further danger.
Not so fast
Despite this promising research, those opposed to red-light cameras argue that they may actually do more harm than good. A 2008 study that appeared in the Florida Public Health Review criticizes IIHS' research methods and makes the case that the cameras make money for the cities that install them while doing little to save lives.
In fact, according to the study, while the cameras may reduce number of fatal accidents that result from red-light running, they increase other types of accidents, like rear-end crashes. Drivers who might otherwise try to skate through the intersection at the last second will instead slam on the brakes to avoid a fine and not leave the cars behind them enough time to stop safely. This, in turn, gives insurance companies a reason to hike rates in areas that have a lot of these crashes -- meaning that areas with red light cameras could see their auto insurance premiums increase, according to the study.

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