Red-light Running Deaths Hit 10-Year High

New AAA Foundation data analysis finds more than two people are killed every day in red-light running crashes, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

More than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by drivers running red lights, according to a new data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The most recent crash data available shows 939 people were killed in red-light running crashes in 2017 – a 10-year high and a 28% increase since 2012. With the number of red-light running crashes on the rise, AAA calls for drivers to use caution when approaching signalized intersections, and for pedestrians and cyclists to stay alert when crossing the street.

According to the AAA Foundation:

  • 28% of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light.
  • Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red-light running fatalities, while New Hampshire has the lowest rate.
  • Nearly half (46%) of those killed in red-light running crashes were passengers or people in other vehicles, and more than 5% were pedestrians or cyclists. Just more than 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.

In Ohio, during the past 10 years, the Ohio Department of Transportation reports 216 people died from red-light running crashes. This is an average of 21 deaths every year, or about 2% of Ohio’s annual traffic fatalities.

“Drivers who decide to run a red light when they could have stopped safely are making a reckless choice that puts other road users in danger,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The data shows that red-light running continues to be a traffic safety challenge. All road safety stakeholders must work together to change behavior and identify effective countermeasures.”

Driver Sentiment

According to the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, 85% of drivers view red-light running as very dangerous, yet nearly one in three say they blew through a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped safely. More than two in five drivers also say it is unlikely police will stop them for running a red light. Nevertheless, it’s against the law and if a driver is involved in a deadly crash it could send them to jail.

Enforcement and Red-light Cameras

While enforcement is the best way to get drivers to comply with any law, police can’t be at every intersection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that when properly implemented, red-light cameras reduced the fatal red-light running crash rate of large cities by 21% and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 14%.

“Deaths caused by red-light running are on the rise,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research. “Cameras increase the odds that violators will get caught, and well-publicized camera programs discourage would-be violators from taking those odds. Camera enforcement is a proven way to reduce red-light running and save lives.”

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 periodically to ensure safety benefits are being realized.

Driver and Pedestrian Red-light Safety Recommendations

Changes in driver behavior also are critical to reducing the number of red-light running crashes on U.S. roads. To prevent red-light crashes, 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 Judgment: 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: When a light turns green, take a second and look both ways before proceeding.

Pedestrians and cyclists should also stay safe when traveling near intersections. AAA recommends:

  • Wait: Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.
  • Stay Alert and Listen: Don’t take chances and don’t wear headphones. Watch what is going on and 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.

AAA provides more than 60 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.

2 Replies to “Red-light Running Deaths Hit 10-Year High”

  1. Two measures that have been taken to decrease red-light running are (1) increasing the line-of-sight to traffic signals by straightening roads or eliminating hilly areas leading up to intersections and (2) increasing the time that the signals are red in all four directions before the change to green. Both are directly related have been ineffective as (1) “Stale” green lights and (2) the increase of four-way red light timing are largely ignored and used by the offenders as a license to take more of a chance at red-light running as they know that everyone will be sitting still for a longer period of time before proceeding through the intersection. Cameras at intersections is the obvious answer, but laws requiring the presence of an officer to personally ticket those in violation have weakened that option. So, the obvious solution has been circumvented to the benefit of those who choose to place everyone else in danger. Common sense hardly ever prevails in our modern society.

  2. As a recent retired city/county/state law enforcement officer, and as a supervisor of such, one would see an traffic offense every 30 seconds. Big or small traffic offense and that is an average time. While in a very marked patrol vehicle, I have had people pass me speeding. I have people pull out in front of me, causing me to break hard. I really believe half the drivers are either oblivious of a police car next to them, or just do not care. After 35 years, on the job, I am truly great full not to deal with these people any longer. The remaining good drivers are slowly disappearing , sad.

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