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Accidents down overall in Houston

I know I said I was done litigating the red light camera question, and I am, I swear it, but I can’t let this pass without comment.

Automobile accidents on Houston streets have declined 13 percent in the last five months, mirroring a trend noted in other major Texas cities, according to police and state highway statistics.

The citywide decline was not as large as the 16 percent reduction in accidents at 50 intersections where the city’s red light cameras quit recording violators Nov. 14, shortly after Houstonians passed a referendum to end the program last fall.

“In Houston, we’re seeing the same declines in overall collisions and crashes on roadways and that confirms what we think has happened at red light intersections — that fewer miles driven contributes to fewer collisions,” said Rice University professor Robert Stein, who has conducted studies of Houston’s red light camera system.

However, fatal traffic accidents in Houston have remained steady during the last three years, according to state crash statistics.

Houston police say 23,432 accidents were recorded throughout the city from mid-November until April 15, a decline of 13 percent from the 26,662 crashes that were reported between mid-June and Nov. 14.

After the city’s camera system was shuttered, there were 362 accidents during the next five months at the 50 monitored intersections – a 16 percent reduction from the previous five months.

The difference between thirteen percent and sixteen percent is noise. To enumerate that, the total number of accidents at former camera intersections would have been 431. A thirteen percent decline from that is 375, so the difference between that and a 16% drop is a grand total of 13 accidents, spread over five months at 50 intersections. A sixteen percent decline in accidents at a subset of intersection is not remarkable when the overall rate of decline is thirteen percent. It’s noise. There were not two separate stories here. There was one story about how the accident rate in Houston had declined noticeably in the past five months, and that decline was about the same at former red light intersections and other intersections. Bad on the Chronicle for not presenting it that way.

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One Comment

  1. byron schirmbeck says:

    Funny thing I have noticed about politics, the more successful you are the more your opposition starts to co opt your arguments. For years we have attributed much of the claimed decreases in accidents to the nationwide trend of lower accidents and fatalities due to the economy and fewer miles driven. When we said it it was ignored, but now it is put out there matter of factly as common knowledge by those that ignored it before.

    Bottom line is the accidents didn’t skyrocket at the camera intersections after they got turned off despite the doomsayers and that’s a good thing. Any way you look at it that is BIG problem for ATS and the camera supporters. You know ATS was sitting back waiting for blood. If there had been one single red light running fatality at one of those intersections, no matter if it was someone intoxicated or running from the law ATS would have trotted out the dead bodies to vindicate themselves. I don’t think the city or ATS would be talking about “other factors” if we had a really wet spring and an icy winter and accidents went up. No way, the increase in accidents would have HAD to have been from them turning the cameras off. The most interesting point to me was the admission that fatalities had been relatively flat over the last 3 years. We know that driving patterns have been down since 2008, as such you would naturally expect a lower fatality rate, which we have seen nationwide. Fatal accidents nationwide were at their lowest point since they started keeping records back in the 1950’s! So if cameras were about saving lives we should have seen a MORE dramatic decline in fatalities in Houston than nationwide not a flat trend.