The Federal Highway Administration recently sponsored their ninth annual "National Stop on Red Week," aimed at increasing awareness of the hazards associated with running red lights. Though most motorists assume that speeding or driving while intoxicated causes the majority of accidents around the country, that is not the case with accidents in urban or metropolitan areas - in those locations, red light running is the leading cause. Sadly, half of the deaths associated with a driver's failure to stop at a red light are of innocent bystanders like pedestrians and occupants in the vehicles struck by the "runner".
Why Is This So Dangerous?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has compiled some frightening statistics about how dangerous it can be to run red lights:
- In 2008 (the most recent year for which such data has been compiled), nearly 140,000 injuries and 1,000 deaths resulted from red light running-related crashes
- 40 percent of pedestrian deaths caused by passenger vehicles occurred in intersections - the number spikes to 51 percent if commercial trucks are included
- Every 20 minutes a red light is run at each intersection
In light of these figures, clearly action needs to be taken to raise awareness of the dangers of disobeying traffic signals. A January 2010 study performed by the Partnership for Advancing Road Safety found that a whopping 80 percent of Americans support using intersection safety cameras to discourage red light running in an effort to prevent accidents. Government support of the devices is not universal, though, so drivers must operate their vehicles in a safe manner when approaching intersections. Good safety practices include:
- Slow down when approaching a yellow light
- Yield to pedestrians
- Come to a complete stop at every red light, even when turning right (this gives you time to see any pedestrians or bicyclists who might be crossing the street)
- Adjust your speed to account for weather and road conditions; take appropriate caution
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each driver to put safety first, but clearly some do not. If you or a loved one has been injured by the reckless or negligent action of a driver who ran a red light, you should contact a personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your rights and options.