How will new Tennessee traffic camera law changes affect roadway safety?

Most speed cameras are now illegal in Tennessee, and lawmakers may ban red light cameras too. However, the safety impact of these changes remains uncertain.

Traffic cameras have long been a source of controversy for Chattanooga residents. Some people believe the devices improve roadway safety by penalizing drivers for dangerous habits, such as speeding or red light running. Others contend that the devices punish people wrongfully and even promote more frequent or serious auto accidents.

Given these concerns, many people in Tennessee may have been relieved to hear that changes are coming to the state's camera program. However, the long-term safety effects of the approved and proposed changes remains to be seen.

Cameras to be phased out

One bill that was signed into law in 2015 requires speed cameras to be phased out of use as contracts between cities and the camera vendor expire. As the Chattanooga Times Free-Press reports, the cameras will still be permitted in school zones and on the S-curves in Hixson. However, the use of all other unmanned cameras will be prohibited. Most cameras in Chattanooga will reportedly be removed by 2017.

An accompanying piece of legislation that failed in 2015 would have also made the use of unmanned red light cameras illegal. According to The Jackson Sun, the bill's sponsor has stated that he plans to reintroduce this legislation in 2016. Therefore, there is still potential for red light cameras to be outlawed and phased out in the near future.

Potential safety impacts

Troublingly, the effects that the pending removal of the speed cameras will have on roadway safety aren't clear. In various areas, officials observed a decrease in fatal car crashes after the cameras were installed. This suggests that accidents could rise once the cameras are removed.

Encouragingly, officials found that crashes didn't increase after the cameras were removed from one location where they were no longer deemed necessary. Motorists apparently maintained the more cautious habits that they had established while the cameras were operational. Still, the removal of the cameras from locations where drivers are still adjusting their habits could have adverse effects.

The proposed removal of the red light cameras could have even more complex impacts. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes, some studies suggest that rear-end collisions increase when these cameras are in use. However, the cameras are also associated with a decrease in more severe T-bone crashes and injury crashes. Therefore, if these cameras are eventually removed, motorists may experience fewer rear-end collisions but face a greater risk of serious crashes.

Exploring options after accidents

Sadly, intersection accidents will likely remain a persistent problem in Tennessee regardless of how the state's traffic camera laws change. Fortunately, legal remedies may be available to people who have been harmed in these accidents. When other motorists speed, run red lights or otherwise drive recklessly, they may be found liable for the resulting accidents. An attorney may be able to offer victims further advice on assessing liability and seeking any compensation that may be available.