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Cooley On Cars
Smarter Driver: Why red light cameras workThey are controversial to say the least, but they do get drivers' attention. CNET's Brian Cooley explains how these cameras are reducing fatal red light accidents in many towns and cities in the US.
About 540 cities and towns around the U.S. currently have cameras on their traffic signals -- red light cameras. Not everyone's crazy about how a machine gives you a ticket, how you can test that kind of ticket, or how much of your fine stays local if you pay it. But the IIHS says large cities with established camera programs have seen big drops in fatal red-light running accidents as much as 24 percent and a 17 percent drop in all fatal crashes at those intersections, all via three layers of awareness. Word gets out around town that cameras have been installed. Signs go up warning drivers that they're approaching a camera at intersection, and should you blow a light, a ticket goes out to your mailbox. But a more integrated awareness could be coming. Audi has developed a dashboard display, showing the state of the light ahead and how long it will be that way. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology is on the way, enabling cars to signal each other if they're about to intersect, either via Smart intersections as several carmakers have been developing as part of the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership or vehicle-to-vehicle technology that Ford's been showing in action. Now, while these technologies are all envisioned first as passive warnings, it's not a huge leap to have cars take over the braking based on intersection conditions, much as they already do based on follow distance today. Clearly, better technology in today's signals and rather primitive cameras is coming soon. In the meantime, the intersection is definitely a place where it pays to double check.