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Ready Set Red Light

Red light runners cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries each year. In 2009, 676 people were killed and an estimated 130,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running. About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.

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An Institute study of urban crashes found that those involving drivers who ran red lights, stop signs and other traffic controls were the most common type of crash (22 percent).

Injuries occurred in 39 percent of the crashes in which motorists ran traffic controls. Enforcement is the key to getting people to comply with a law, but communities don’t have the resources to allow police to patrol intersections as often as would be needed to ticket all motorists who run red lights. Studies have shown that the presence of cameras reduces red light running. If a vehicle enters an intersection any time after the signal light has turned red, the driver has committed a violation.

Motorists inadvertently in an intersection when the signal changes are not red light runners. In locations where a right turn on red is permitted, drivers who fail to come to a complete stop before turning may be considered red light runners. However, communities differ as to whether they issue tickets for it when it is caught on camera. A study conducted during several months at 5 busy intersections in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, prior to the use of red light cameras found that, on average, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection.

During peak travel times, red light running was more frequent. Analysis of red light violation data from 19 intersections without red light cameras in 4 states found that 1,775 violations occurred over 554 hours, for a violation rate of 3. 2 per hour per intersection. In a 2010 telephone survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 93 percent of drivers said it’s unacceptable to go through a red light if it’s possible to stop safely, but one-third reported doing so in the past 30 days.

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