Drivers running red lights kill at least two people daily in the United States. This alarming trend has safety experts urging drivers to use caution and pedestrians and cyclists to stay alert.
According to new data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 939 people were killed in red light running crashes on U.S. roads in 2017; a 10-year high, and a 28 percent increase since 2012.
The AAA Foundation reported that 28 percent of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light. Nearly half of those killed in red light running crashes were passengers or people in other vehicles.
In the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, 85 percent of drivers said they thought running a red light was very dangerous – but nearly one third said they had done it within the previous 30 days.
So why would they take that chance? More than 40 percent said they didn’t think police would stop them. Nevertheless, it’s against the law and if a driver is involved in a deadly crash, it could send them to jail.
While police can’t realistically be at every intersection, enforcement is the best way to get drivers to comply with any law. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that when properly implemented, red light cameras reduced the fatal red-light running crash rate in large cities by 21 percent. The IIHS also found that the cameras reduced the rate of all types of fatal crashes at intersections with signals by 14 percent.
Proper implementation of red-light cameras helps to ensure drivers’ safety and trust in the systems. When using red light camera programs, local governments should incorporate best practices, such as:
• Using the camera program as part of a comprehensive traffic safety strategy, including engineering and education.
• Only implementing programs on roadways with a demonstrated pattern of violations or crashes.
• Notifying drivers that cameras are being used (signage and other methods).
• Calibrating cameras regularly.
• Only operating cameras under the direct supervision of law enforcement personnel.
• Evaluating the programs on a periodic basis to ensure safety benefits are being realized.
Experts say simple changes to driving habits can prevent crashes related to red light running. AAA recommends that drivers:
- Prepare to stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
- Use good judgement: Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
- Tap the brake: Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
- Drive defensively: Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.
Pedestrians and cyclists can also do their part to stay safe near intersections. AAA recommends:
- Wait: Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop at a red light before moving through the intersection.
- Stay alert: Don’t take chances and don’t wear headphones. Give your full attention to the environment around you.
- Be visible: Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
- Make eye contact: Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.