Why you shouldn’t run red lights

Why you shouldn’t run red lights

Ken Testorff

Chalk this one up to reckless driving. A PO1 and his passenger were southbound, crossing an intersection on a green light, when a young woman ran a red light at a high rate of speed. Her vehicle slammed into the passenger side of the PO1’s car at a 90-degree angle.

The PO1 lost five workdays recuperating from severe bruising and some swelling in his abdomen, upper torso, and shoulders–all related to wearing his seat belt. His passenger, meanwhile, was hospitalized with a severe concussion, broken right shoulder, broken right collarbone, six broken ribs, a punctured lung, broken right hip, and broken right femur. Disability is likely. He, too, was wearing a seat belt.

The young woman who caused this crash was arrested at the scene and booked for further criminal processing.

How big is the problem of people running red lights? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these people cause an estimated 260,000 crashes each year, of which 750 are fatal. Nationally, fatal motor-vehicle crashes at traffic signals increased 18 percent between 1992 and 1998, far outpacing the six percent rise in all other fatal crashes.

Red-light running is a big part of the problem. Institute researchers determined that between 1992 and 1998, there were 5,294 such crashes. The numbers rose from 702 in 1992 to 745 in 1998–a six percent increase.

People running red lights and other traffic controls, such as stop and yield signs, are the leading cause of urban crashes. Institute researchers studied police reports of crashes on public roads in four urban areas during 1990 and 1991. Of 13 types of crashes the researchers identified, running traffic controls accounted for 22 percent of the total. Running red lights figured in 24 percent of all these traffic-control-related crashes.

The same study showed that motorists are more likely to be injured in crashes involving red-light running than in other types of crashes. Occupant injuries occurred in 45 percent of such crashes, compared to 30 percent for other types of crashes.

Meanwhile, a survey of American drivers showed that 55.8 percent admit to running red lights. Yet, 96 percent of the same drivers admit to fearing that someone will run a red light and hit them as they enter an intersection. Although social scientists might have hypothesized that frustration and road rage would represent what most American drivers in this survey perceived as the cause of red-light running, the results proved otherwise. Only 15.8 percent cited these reasons, while nearly half (47.8 percent) admitted nothing more complicated than being in a hurry prompted them to run red lights.

Red-light runners do not conform to a set demographic. The dangerous practice reaches across drivers of all ages, economic groups, and genders. The perpetrators are everyday people: professionals, white-collar and blue-collar workers, unemployed, homemakers, parents, and young adults.

Thanks to Mike Borkowski, a traffic-safety specialist in the Shore Safety Programs Directorate, for helping gather information for this article.–Ed.

COPYRIGHT 2003 U.S. Navy Safety Center

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group