Surveillance Cameras & Driving Behavior

8th Grade Science Fair Project
Photo © 2007 Adrian Short, Flickr

This project, submitted to the 2005 California State Science Fair by high school student Kaitlin Walker, goes a bit beyond Cool Science Fair Projects' age/skill level, but for more advanced students, this could be a cool project indeed. Ever wonder if automated traffic enforcement (traffic cameras) were effective in deterring drivers from running red lights? Walker did, so she designed an experiment to check it out!

Traffic Cameras

According to The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, "in 2007 in the U.S., almost 900 people were killed and an estimated 153,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running" - making red light running the single most significant cause of preventable death in America. Traffic cameras and photo enforcement were one of the solutions proposed to help curb red light running (as well as preventing the deaths associated with this dangerous activity) and are currently used in twenty-six of the fifty states.

Project Overview

For her project, Walker chose two separate intersections to observe and collect data from - one intersection had a red light camera while the other did not. She made observations for a total of 10 hours - dividing her time into 10 thirty minute sections at the surveilled intersection and 10 thirty minute observations at the unsurveilled intersection. For a write-up of her results and conclusions, be sure to read her project abstract (#S0327) at the 2005 California State Science Fair.

Here are some ideas to consider when designing your own experiment:

  • Would observing more intersections/locations provide better results? >> Include more than one surveilled and one unsurveilled intersection for comparison and more statistically accurate data.
  • Does the location of an intersection have bearing on whether the traffic camera is effective? >> Make sure you observe an intersection in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
  • Does the time of day affect the effectiveness of the traffic camera? >> Make sure to observe commuters at both morning & evening rush hour, etc.