RED LIGHTS: Put the Brakes On!

Everyone is in a hurry these days and that is reflected in the erratic driving behavior we often see by drivers rushing to get somewhere. ‘Red Light Runners’ are on the rise and more alarming is the carnage that they are leaving behind in their haste.

Last year, 676 people were killed and an estimated 116,000 were injured in crashes involving drivers who ran red lights, stops signs and other traffic control devices. In Kentucky, there were 3,695 collisions resulting in 31 deaths from crashes caused by disregarding traffic signals.

Enforcement is the key to getting people to comply with the law, but communities don’t have the resources to allow law enforcement to patrol intersections as often as is needed to ticket all motorists who run red lights. Many cities have installed cameras at large intersections and studies show that these cameras have been effective in reducing the number of citations written for disregarding traffic signals in these areas.

If you are not familiar with the camera system, it consists of installing a recording device at an intersection to take a snapshot of a vehicle as it illegally goes through when the light is red. A 2011 Study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared large cities with red light cameras to those without, found that the devices reduced the fatal red light running crash rate by 24 percent.

Some drivers feel that use of the red light cameras is an infringement of their privacy when in all actuality, driving is a regulated activity on public roads. By obtaining a license, a motorist agrees to abide by certain laws, such as obeying traffic signals.

While this blog is not about whether or not to install red light cameras, the proven effective results of these devices cannot be ignored.
So what types of drivers usually run red lights? Traffic surveys indicate that as a group, they are under 30 and male and most have had prior crashes and citations for speeding and other moving violations. It is not easy to determine how often people run red lights but with the number of crashes involving running red lights increasing, the need for safety awareness is long overdue.

Often times, Red Light Runners who get caught think they’ve been wronged. They’re convinced that their citation is nothing more than a scheme to pick the pockets of motorists. The truth is simpler: Red Light Running Kills.

Jacy Good from Allentown, PA can attest to that. Jacy had just graduated from college and was in a car with her parents, headed back home to celebrate her accomplishments with family and friends. Nearly halfway home, a chain reaction set off by a Red Light Runner sent a tractor trailer into the side of their car. Jacy, who was in the front seat, was left with traumatic brain injury, partially collapsed lungs, a lacerated liver, 2 damaged carotid arteries, and a shattered pelvis. Weeks later, when she regained consciousness, she learned that her parents were not so lucky – as they succumbed to their injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) indicates that many drivers actually speed up when going through a red light in an effort to ‘make the light’ which in turn causes more significant damages in crashes.

NHTSA also determined that distracted driving is another factor in running red lights. Drivers who are texting, talking on the phone, eating or distracted doing something else are not keeping their eyes on the road and therefore may run the light without ever being aware it was even red. Other times, when drivers are distracted, they are driving too fast for conditions and not able to have enough time to slow down or stop before entering an intersection.

Just a few facts to leave you with:

• The Red Light Runner accounts for 36% of the red light running crash deaths and another 12% are the occupants in the Red Light Runners vehicle.
• 46% percent of Red Light Running crash deaths are occupants of vehicles that did NOT run the red light.
• 10% of red light runners in fatal crashes were teenagers.
• 22% of Red Light Runners in fatal crashes were driving without licenses.
• 11% of people killed in red light crashes were motorcyclists.
This leads us to ask ourselves…Is it really worth it? Will the amount of time saved by running a red light justify taking the innocent life of another?

Red Light Runners: Please put the brakes on!

Article References:
2009 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Study.
NHTSA: Guidance for Using Red Light Cameras Report. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/enforce/guidance03/Guidancereport.pdf
Status Report, Volume 46, No. 1, Feb, 1, 2011.