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Mizzou duo shines at ITS Heartland Student Competition

Boris Claros, Hemin Mohammed and Roozbeh Rahmani pose with their ITS Heartland awards.

MU civil engineering graduate students Boris Claros, left, and Roozbeh Rahmani, right, took the top two spots at the Intelligent Transportation Society Heartland Student Competition. In the middle is third-place finisher Hemin Mohammed of the University of Kansas. Photo courtesy of Boris Claros.

For the third consecutive year, MU civil engineering graduate student Boris Claros captured the top spot at the Intelligent Transportation Society Heartland Student Competition. Fellow MU grad student Roozbeh Rahmani earned second place honors.

Claros earned top honors this year with his paper, “Evaluation of Red Light Cameras in Missouri: Safety Effectiveness, Economic Benefit and Lessons Learned.” He used 24 camera-equipped, four-leg urban intersections selected at random from a master list of such intersections in Missouri, as well as 35 non-equipped intersections, to compare frequency of crashes and the severity of types of crashes at intersections with and without cameras.

“There were no studies here in Missouri confirming or denying the benefits of red light cameras, so that’s what I did,” Claros said. “I selected only 24 cameras because they needed to be very similar, the intersections with the cameras.”

Camera-equipped intersections saw a 1.6 percent increase in total crashes but a 7.4 percent drop in fatal and injury-causing crashes. Property damage went up by 3.8 percent. Rear end crashes went up 16.5 percent, while total angle crashes went down 11.6 percent. The determinations were made using Missouri State Highway Patrol records for two years before and the two years following implementation of the camera. Economically, Claros determined the crash-cost benefit of the cameras was $44,796 in 2011 dollars per site per year, numbers similar to broader national studies.

“Some people say they aren’t safe then; they’re just trading one type of crash for another type of crash,” Claros said. “But the difference is that right-angle crashes are more severe than rear ends. In rear ends, they’re breaking already. In right-angle, they’re continuing.”

Claros also looked at different legal cases in Missouri involving red light camera enforcement. He focused on a voided fine that led to Springfield first creating an administrative system to handle violators, then the system’s eventual demise after it was deemed in violation of “statutory requirements involving violations of municipal ordinances to be heard only before divisions of the circuit court.” He also discussed potential financial ramifications.

Rahmani put together a project titled “License Plate Recognition Technology’s Potential Benefits to Intelligent Transportation Systems: An Arterial Travel Time Case Study.” The project used traffic cameras on Columbia’s College Avenue intersections at Ashland Road and Walnut Street to determine how traffic signal patterns between the two points affected traffic flow and how those patterns could be shifted to make traffic flow more quickly and safely. The project also showed how similar studies could be used as a cost-effective means for other cities to improve traffic flow on arterial roadways.

Rahmani’s work also earned him first place in a similar competition at the Missouri Traffic and Safety Conference. He said that his experience presenting at the ITS Heartland competition was a benefit in his later first-place nod.

“I used more pictures, decreased the text content, and emphasized the results and how huge they are,” Rahmani said.