More than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by motorists running through red lights, according to data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The most recent crash data available show 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 over 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.
“By releasing this analysis, we want to make motorists more aware of the risks involved with negligent driving behaviors at stop lights,” said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central. “Reckless driving habits aren’t worth the risk, and this research reveals that in many cases they are leading to roadway fatalities.”
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 2 in 5 drivers also say it is unlikely they’ll be stopped by police for running a red light. Nevertheless, the practice is against the law and if a driver is involved in a deadly crash, the consequences could follow them for the rest of their lives.
While enforcement is the best way to get drivers to comply with any law, it is impossible for police to be at every intersection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 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%.
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.
Changes in driver behavior are also 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: 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 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.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 79 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members. News releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.