More than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by impatient and reckless drivers blowing through red lights, according to data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The most recent crash data available shows 939 people were killed in red light running crashes in 2017 — a 10-year high and a 28% increase since 2012. With the number of red light running crashes on the rise, AAA calls for drivers to use caution when approaching signalized intersections, and for pedestrians and cyclists to stay alert when crossing the street.

This week, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested a driver who was shown on surveillance video running a red light in a North Hills intersection and crashing into an SUV on Father’s Day.  The crash killed the SUV driver and left the four passengers in the driver’s Lexus injured.

According to the AAA Foundation:

  • 28% of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light.
  • Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red light running fatalities while New Hampshire has the lowest rate.
  • Nearly half (46%) of those killed in red light running crashes were passengers or people in other vehicles and more than 5% were pedestrians or cyclists. Just over 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the light.

“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,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a prepared statement. “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.”

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 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.

“All too often, drivers are in a rush or aren’t paying full attention to the road ahead,” Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Community Programs & Traffic Safety Manager, said in a prepared statement. “We hope this latest data analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reminds them about the importance of making responsible decisions when behind the wheel to keep roads safe for themselves and for others each and every day.”

While enforcement is the best way to get drivers to comply with any law, it is impossible for police to be at every intersection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that when properly implemented, red light cameras reduced the fatal red light running crash rate of large cities by 21% and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 14%.

“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.”

Automated enforcement can supplement law enforcement efforts to deter red light running. As of July 2019, 341 communities in 21 states and the District of Columbia operate  automated enforcement programs, down from a peak of 533 communities in 2012. For information on states and localities using these cameras, visit the IIHS website by clicking here.


Image Sources

  • Red-Light Deaths: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety