Fatalities at Red Lights at a 10-Year High

can be reached at meehna@gmail.com
can be reached at meehna@gmail.com
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Red means stop at a traffic light. Always has, always will. Until the time autonomous vehicles take over and we can say arrivederci to traffic lights altogether. So what’s the reason deaths caused by drivers rocketing through reds are at a 10-year high, according to a  study of government data by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety?

  • Although the majority of drivers realize the risk of running a red light, more are doing it and causing a 10-year high in fatalities.
  • Police aren’t a big enough deterrent, but cameras at intersections have proven to reduce the incidence.
  • Agencies need to provide more than safety tips to avoid running the red, they must communicate the consequences.

Analyzing data from 2008-2017, the study found that 939 people lost their lives at red lights in 2017, compared to a low of 715 in 2009. That’s a jump of 31 percent and translates to more than two people per day not making it home. While about 35 percent of fatalities were offending drivers, 46 percent were people in other vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists fared better accounting for about 5 percent.

Running a red light can have tragic consequences. (Photo: Getty Images)

The flagrant disregard for road rules isn’t because drivers don’t realize the risks. 85 percent said they viewed blasting through the red as very dangerous, which leaves just 15 percent that are daredevils. And, nearly 33 percent admitted running the red in the past 30 days when they actually could’ve stopped safely. Contributing to the problem, more than 40 percent don’t think they’ll be caught by the police.

Cameras as a deterrent

The study also found drivers might not be too worried about cops, but they do respect cameras at intersections. “Cameras increase the odds that violators will get caught, and well-publicized camera programs discourage would-be violators from taking those odds,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS Vice President for Research. “Camera enforcement is a proven way to reduce red light running and save lives.”


With the proliferation of smart phones and GPS and infotainment screens in cars, distracted driving certainly can explain part of the uptick in drivers blasting through the intersection on a red. Organizations such as AAA provide obvious tips to drive more safely, such as not using your phone or fiddling with the radio while driving. Instead, maybe they should concentrate on finding a way to effectively and poignantly communicate the possible consequences of ignoring the red light — for whatever reason.

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can be reached at meehna@gmail.com
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