Roosevelt Boulevard Crashes Have Increased Since Red Light Cameras

Overall crashes on the dangerous road are actually up, though severity is down.

It has been a decade since the Philadelphia Parking Authority first installed red light cameras on the treacherous Roosevelt Boulevard, and now our state legislators are considering whether to add speed enforcement cameras to the roadway. But it turns out that the red light camera program hasn’t exactly been a wild success.

According to data provided by PennDOT, there has been a not-insignificant increase in total crashes along the Roosevelt Boulevard since the installation of those cameras, while crashes involving pedestrians have remained virtually the same.

From 1998 through 2007, there were 5,350 total crashes on the road, an average of 535 per year. From 2008 to 2012 (the last year for which complete data is available), there were 2,794 total crashes, or 558.8 crashes per year, an increase of 23.8 crashes each year.

As for crashes involving pedestrians, there were 267 from 1998 through 2007 (26.7 per year) and 135 from 2008 to 2012 (27 per year), so no notable increase there — but no decrease, either.

Where you do start seeing a decrease is in the severity of the overall crashes. Total crashes may be up, but fewer of them are resulting in deaths and major injuries.

Between 1998 and 2007, there were 110 fatal crashes resulting in 124 fatalities (11 fatal crashes per year), as compared to 40 fatal crashes resulting in 43 fatalities between 2008 and 2012 (4 fatal crashes per year). And overall crashes resulting in major injuries saw a similar decrease.

But — and this is a big but — crashes resulting in pedestrian fatalities have remained exactly the same. From 1998 to 2007, 34 pedestrian fatalities were reported, or 3.4 each year. That yearly number remains 3.4 from 2008 to 2012. 17 pedestrians were killed by drivers on the Roosevelt Boulevard between 2008 and 2012. And who can forget the mother and three children struck and killed on the road in 2013?

No one can say with certainty why the number of crashes has risen, but texting-while-driving is seen as a likely culprit. And some of the crashes are, no doubt, due to drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid getting a red light ticket.

“No matter what you put out there as far as technology is concerned, something else comes out and negates it to some extent,” bemoans Lou Belmonte, PennDOT’s local District Traffic Engineer. “And then things don’t go down like you had hoped they would.”

PennDOT also pointed out that the cameras are only part of the solution: Problematic crosswalks have been eliminated; speed advisory signs have been installed (“Your Speed: 82 mph”); increased traffic violation fines on certain sections; a recent $2 million grant earmarked for enforcement; crosswalk countdown timers; and a public safety awareness campaign.

But none of it seems to be working in the way that was expected. Drivers are still driving recklessly on the Roosevelt Boulevard, and many pedestrians are still crossing the roadway in unsafe ways.

“The primary issue is, you have residential and commercial areas intertwined along an entire roadway, and it’s a major commuter road,” says Belmonte. “Often, they don’t fit together easily.”

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  • kennedy12

    Speed camera are an AWFUL idea. The drivers of
    this city are already over-burdened with the red-light camera program that your
    article mentions may or may not be effective. Last thing we need is a speed
    trap money grab. And as far as the unfortunate pedestrian fatalities … that
    is mostly the pedestrians fault. I literally see it EVERYDAY, people crossing
    in the middle of the blocks without the benefit of crosswalks. Sadly when you
    cross a 45 mph road in the middle of the block you may be hit. The pedestrians
    have to take some ownership in this. It isn’t always the drivers fault.

  • Philip

    Regardless of the cameras, there are huge sections with no traffic lights. Cars end up speeding way too fast before they even arrive at the next light. It would be pretty cheap, but I wonder if big speed bumps would be effective. Or maybe traffic safety is more technical and not plainly simple for us common folks…

    • matthew brandley

      Spees bumps on a state hwy? you realy are some kind of stupid

      • Philip

        Oh right, pedestrian crosswalks on a state highway are fine though.

        • matthew brandley

          Dear stupid again. Think about wtf you said. Again common sense is burried up your ass. It realy is. It would cause massive traffic jams. Nobody would get anywhere. Besides stupid its illegal , ILLEGAL in the stste of pa for anyone to put them on a state hwy. You must be a libturd to want to do this since they are always wanting to come up with stupid ideas to ruin everyones life with more damn rules and regs

          • Philip

            Yes, that’s why I love NFA firearms. I love damn rules and regs. Keep it coming–your writing is getting better. :)

  • jcwconsult

    Anyone who thinks the real purpose for the red light cameras was safety is very naïve. The real purpose for the cameras is the over $60 million dollars collected so far.
    As reported by the Philadelphia Weekly using police department data, the crash rates were higher at camera intersections in 2005 when the revenue collection program was new. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer using police department data, the crash rates at camera intersections remained higher in 2011 when the revenue collection program came up for renewal. REVENUE was and is the goal, not safety.
    Greater safety and fewer violations would be available with better engineering, but that approach is not profitable for the Philadelphia Parking Authority or PennDOT.
    The only real solution is to ban ticket cameras in every state, as they are in some now. Then there is no financial incentive to mis-engineer roads and traffic lights for $$$$.
    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  • PhotoRadarscam

    What irresponsible journalism to suggest that texting while driving is a cause of rising crashes when there is no evidence of this. In the past decade, the proliferation of smart phones has been exponential, yet nationwide crashes have continued a downward trend. There is no correlation between use of cell phones and crashes.

    The cameras are about MONEY, not safety. Why no calls for traffic engineering, which is essentially the SCIENCE of traffic safety? Oh, that’s right, it’s not profitable to FIX defective road designs, they’d rather CASH IN on them.

  • matthew brandley

    Did anyone notice the part that pedestrians are crossing the blvd in unsafe ways? I didnt think so. Thats the problem folks. You can only elimanate the problems to a point. You cant take the stuoid out of stupid people who are just to damn lazy to obey the laws and cross at a safe intersection. Whats so hard to understand about that?

  • MLJ

    If all crashes, fatalities, and injuries went down, Fiorello wouldn’t be mentioning all those safety features. He would attribute it to the cameras.
    Did you notice he didn’t mention texting-while-WALKING ? Just vaguely pedestrians crossing in dangerous ways.
    But worse is that the crashes go up, and the cameras don’t get blamed. Something must be counteracting their effect.
    Never conclude the cameras are dangerous (despite hints of braking & causing rear-end crashes). Never contend the crosswalks and safety campaigns are counteracting the camera’s negative effect.

  • chris

    People just drive particularly bad on Roosevelt boulevard. Honestly, its terrifying.

    • matthew brandley

      Agree. And the moron who wants the speed bumps ? hes such a moron.

  • LinuxGuy

    This is ALL about money. All you need to do is have 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed limits, use longer yellow times, have a decent length all-red interval, and sensors to keep an all-red for late arrivals. No crashes! You can also sync lights and use sensors to keep smooth flow.

    What is the point of using poor engineering with predatory enforcement, if not 100% revenue?

    Look at what’s ip in Pittsburgh. Back in October, council had a meeting with suits from red-light camera companies and consultants. To be fair, a person from the National Motorists Association was also there. Well, a camera person refused to allow the NMA guy to even talk. This shows what you are dealing with here. Enough said.

    You can easily find data showing cameras lead to more crashes and safe drivers ticketed. The way it is setup, you have split-second violations, tickets for stops past
    the stop line, AND violations for a non-complete stop for a right-on-red turn.