The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a new study on Feb. 1 claiming that red light cameras have not only made streets safer, but "saved 159 lives in 2004-2008 in 14 of the biggest U.S. cities." Institute president Adrian Lund said, "The cities that have the courage to use red light cameras despite the political backlash are saving lives." Several motorists' rights groups disagreed, including the National Motorists Association and the Best Highway Practices Safety Institute.
Metairie attorney Joseph R. McMahon III, who has filed class action lawsuits against Orleans, Jefferson and Lafayette Parishes over their use of traffic cameras, also was skeptical of the claims. He noted that the IIHS compared statistics from 2004-2008 with statistics from 1992-1996. "It's misleading to compare that to contemporary data," McMahon told Gambit. "There are so many reasons fatalities could be down, including improved vehicle safety and side-impact airbags. I don't think it's an exact science."
In October 2010, the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the city's appeal of a trial court ruling against New Orleans traffic cameras. The lawsuit had claimed the City Charter gave the power to enforce traffic regulations exclusively to the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), rather than the Public Works Department. In response, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 to move the cameras to the jurisdiction of the NOPD, putting them back to work immediately.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration claims red light cameras are a boon to safety, saying that violations have gone down by 91 percent at intersections with cameras. What's not in question is the cameras' boon to city coffers. The mayor's office estimates the cameras will bring in $15 million in 2011.