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Deadly crashes caused by drivers who run red lights are at a 10-year high

Massachusetts auto accident attorneyOn an August evening in 2018, the light at the intersection of a major roadway turns yellow, then red. Several cars slow down and come to a complete stop as drivers from another roadway make left turns through the intersection. One silver car, however, never came to a stop. Instead, it broadsided a black SUV on the driver's side, causing it to roll over.

This crash, apparently captured by a red-light camera, is one of the video clips featured in a recent AAA NewsRoom article.

According to researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reckless drivers who run through red lights kill more than two people every day across the United States.

In 2017, the most recent crash data available, traffic fatalities caused by drivers who run red lights totaled 939. This marks the highest number of red light-related deaths and a 28 percent increase since 2012.

For this reason, AAA urges drivers to approach signalized intersections with caution. Pedestrians and bicyclists should stay alert and be aware of what’s happening when crossing the street.

What are the facts and figures of these fatal crashes?

  • Roughly 28 percent of all traffic fatalities at signalized intersections are caused by drivers running red lights.
  • Arizona has the highest rate of deaths caused by drivers running red lights. New Hampshire has the lowest.
  • Passengers and occupants of other vehicles made up nearly half of all fatalities involving drivers running red lights. More than 35 percent were the drivers who ran red lights and more than five percent were pedestrians and bicyclists.

“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.”

AAA's latest Traffic Safety Culture Index finds that 85 percent of drivers see red light running as highly dangerous. One in three, however, admitted to blowing through red lights within the past 30 days of being surveyed. In addition, about half of the drivers surveyed said it's unlikely police will stop them after running a red light because, of course, police can't be present at every signalized intersection.

Can red light cameras prevent fatal crashes?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light cameras were found to reduce fatal crashes caused by red light running by 21 percent in large cities. All types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections dropped by 14 percent.

“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.”

The AAA article suggests that local municipalities do the following when implementing red light cameras:

  • Incorporate red light camera programs into a comprehensive traffic safety strategy, including engineering and education.
  • Focus primarily on areas with frequent crashes and traffic violations.
  • Notify drivers of red light cameras through signs and other methods.
  • Ensure that an adequate number of cameras are installed.
  • Operate cameras only under direct supervision of law enforcement.
  • Periodically evaluate the red light camera program and analyze the safety benefits it provides.

Safety tips for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians

AAA also suggests that drivers do the following to prevent fatal crashes at signalized intersections:

  • Be prepared to stop: When approaching a signalized intersection, drivers should position their foot over the brake pedal, even without applying the brakes.
  • Be aware of potential light changes: If a light has been green for a while, drivers should be aware that it could change at any moment when approaching an intersection.
  • Tap brakes: When slowing down to stop at an intersection, drivers should first tap their brakes a couple of times to alert drivers behind them — especially those who may be inattentive.
  • Look both ways when light turns green: Once a traffic light turns green, it's important that drivers take a second to look both ways before entering an intersection. This could prevent them from being broadsided by a driver who runs a red light.

Pedestrians and bicyclists should do the following:

  • Ensure that all cars have come to a complete stop before proceeding through an intersection.
  • Stay attentive and avoid wearing headphones or earbuds.
  • Wear clothing that makes you visible and stay in well-lit areas.
  • Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you before proceeding.

If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash due to a driver who ran a red light, it's important to get immediate medical attention. Then consult with an experienced Massachusetts car accident attorney who can help you pursue a strong claim against the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company. Contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone today to learn more.

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