Crashes double at Houston intersections after red-light cameras pulled. James Pinkerton, Chron.com
HPD statistics show an increase of 117 percent over the last four years. While the cameras were in operation from 2006-2010, HPD reported 4,100 crashes at those intersections followed by almost 9,000 crashes during the next four years without camera, including a 30 percent increase in fatal collisions.
However, HPD's data did not show traffic counts over time at the monitored intersections.(Emphasis mine)
This is a case of selectively presenting statistics with the desire of attending a desired result. In this case, HPD would REALLY like to have back that $10MM per year.
The problem is that without these traffic count numbers this particular set of statistics is bunk. Since 2010 there have been major road-works projects on area feeder roads (driven on 59 by Greenway Plaza lately?) that have impacted traffic counts and Houston's population has grown mightily since the lights were removed.
That's not to suggest that collisions, including fatal collisions, haven't increased, but a correlation does not equal causation.
One of the biggest problems that journalists have when presenting statistics is that, in many cases, they don't have the mathematical and analytical education to understand what they mean or to apply context. In this case, it appears that Mr. Pinkerton did understand the holes in the data but, either through editing or omission, did no continue the line of thinking to its logical end.
I wish he would have. It wouldn't have meant that the HPD numbers were bogus, but it might have provided a platform to start the City down the road of trying to figure out exactly WHY these collisions are happening rather than just firing a revenue cannon at the problem and hoping it goes away.
It's just another case where Houston's elected non-leadership overreacted to a problem without having a full understanding of what that problem was. As Pinkerton pointed out in the story, the unintended consequences of not taking the time to properly aim resulted in the City spending $4.8MM in settlement money that could have been used to fix some pot-holes. Too many times in Houston the government does this while the Chronicle, and other media, drop the ball in their watchdog role.
From a good governance perspective (as the InterLeft continually reminds us "we all want") this should be priority one for everyone. Sadly, it's not.