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Red light monitors save lives

An audit of California's red light enforcement cameras credits the technology with curbing accidents but urges local governments to take better command of their programs. In the most exhaustive look at the controversial cameras to date, the Bureau of State Audits examined seven of the 20 red light programs in the state. The report released in July found that red light running accidents fell by 10% in jurisdictions that use cameras since a 1996 state law authorized the technology. The drop was more pronounced at the particular intersections where cameras were installed. At 10 intersections in the city of Sacramento, red light related accidents fell by 44% since cameras went up, the audit found. The audit surveyed the cities of Fremont, Long Beach, Oxnard, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles County. The 110 page report also challenged two widespread notions about red light cameras—that cities make money off the $281 tickets and that traffic engineers manipulate the yellow light times on traffic signals to generate more tickets. Only the programs in Oxnard and San Diego have generated significant revenue, according to the audit, while some cities have lost money in the process. Sacramento, for example, lost $153 000 since the first cameras were installed three years ago, while San Francisco lost nearly $1 million since its program started in 1996. Sacramento now pays its contractor $87 from every $281 red light ticket, with the city keeping $9.30. The rest is divided among various state and county programs. And auditors found no evidence that yellow times have been decreased. In fact, yellow times at three intersections in Sacramento were extended last year even though they met intervals established by the state Department of Transportation. A copy of the audit is online at www.bsa.ca.gov/bsa/index.html (from The Sacramento Bee, July 2002; submitted by Peter Jacobsen).

This rather bizarre story might make one believe that accident-proneness is more than a concept. Not this man's lucky day.

Injured man survives brush with death near train tracks

A man who was hit by a train while passed out in his car after cutting his fingers in a household accident has survived. Richard Paquette was driving to a clinic when he passed out near train tracks. A witness said the car was dragged 30 metres before Mr Paquette awoke and managed to swing the car out of harm's way. He was not hurt (from National Post (Canada), August 2002; submitted by Amy Zierler).

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