ATLANTA — Drivers running red lights kill at least two people daily — an alarming trend that has safety experts urging drivers to use caution and pedestrians and cyclists to be 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% increase since 2012.
“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 AAA Foundation reported that 28% of the crash deaths occurring at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running a red light. Nearly half of those killed in red light running crashes were passengers or occupants of other vehicles.
“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,” continued Yang.
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, 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%. The same IIHS study found the cameras reduced the rate of all types of fatal crashes at intersections with signals by 14%.
AAA believes that law enforcement officers are the most effective means of deterring violations of traffic laws and regulations. However, AAA recognizes the potential of red light cameras (RLC), to perform critically important enforcement functions, thus promoting traffic safety.
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.
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501©(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.