Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Red-light cameras on drivers' wish list

AA says poll shows risky driving at intersections clearly touches nerve.
Snapped and fined for driving through a red light? Yes please, say an overwhelming majority of motorists in our biggest city. Photo / Dean Purcell
Snapped and fined for driving through a red light? Yes please, say an overwhelming majority of motorists in our biggest city. Photo / Dean Purcell

Snapped and fined for driving through a red light? Yes please, say an overwhelming majority of motorists in our biggest city.

Automobile Association members are backing its renewed call for more red-light cameras, with 90 per cent of the 2500 Auckland respondents agreeing more of the cameras are needed.

And it wasn't through a belief they wouldn't get caught in the net - a quarter of respondents admitted they had run a red light. Four out of five said they witnessed others run red lights at least once a week.

AA infrastructure and Auckland transport principal adviser Barney Irvine said it was clear the dangerous practice touched a nerve in Auckland.

"People described it as an epidemic."

Ministry of Transport figures show between 2009 and 2014 a total of 13 people died and 313 were seriously injured in crashes where a driver went through a red or orange light.

The total number of people who died in vehicle crashes over the same period was 1898, with a further 12,988 seriously injured.

Mr Irvine said Auckland Transport figures from an earlier red-camera trial pegged the annual social cost of crashes caused by red-light running at $43 million and the trial was found to return $8.20 worth of safety benefits for every $1 spent.

The figures also showed crashes from red-light running had fallen on average by more than two-thirds following the trial, he said.

Former Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse signalled in a 2013 position paper more red-light cameras were a priority at intersections where evidence-base benefit could be established, prompting the AA to whip it off its pre-election lobbying agenda.

Mr Woodhouse indicated a further 26 to 30 cameras could be installed.

But today there are just seven in Auckland and one in Wellington, according to Mr Irvine.

"We took it out because it looked like things were moving ahead. In the three years since we've gained a total of three cameras.

"To say we're underwhelmed is an understatement. This is an area where the public is crying out for action ... this is an opportunity to save lives and save costs."

Productivity-killing congestion would also be helped by more red-light cameras, he said - many association members reported waiting a couple of seconds after lights turned green before accelerating, because they were wary of red-light runners.

Each camera cost $100,000 to buy and install, and another $100,000 a year to operate.

The association wanted a further 20 - split equally between Auckland and the rest of the country.

"We're not talking about red-light cameras at every intersection ... it's got to be driven by risk and has to be proven the red-light camera is the best solution," Mr Irvine said.

In a written statement, the present Associate Transport Minister, Craig Foss, said running red lights was "risky and unacceptable" and put other road users at risk.

"Red-light cameras can be a useful tool to help prevent fatalities and serious injuries at intersections. [But] it's important to note that there are other ways to reduce the severity or frequency of red-light crashes, including changes to light phasing and engineering solutions."

Not all intersections were suitable for red-light cameras and how and when they were rolled out was an operational decision for police and road-controlling authorities, he said.

Three new-generation red-light cameras went live at intersections in Auckland and Wellington last April.

Mr Foss said the cameras were installed at intersections identified as high-risk by the New Zealand Transport Agency and police.

• 13 people died and 313 were seriously injured in crashes where a driver went through a red or orange light.

• 90 per centof respondents said more red light cameras were needed.

• 4 out of 5 said they'd witnessed others run red lights.

• $100,000 is what the cameras cost to buy and install, and another $100,000 a year to operate.

- NZ Herald

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