Distracted driving is to blame for a 10-year high in the number of people killed by drivers running red lights and causing accidents, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says.
AAA Northeast magazine says traffic safety researchers found that 939 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roads in 2017 caused by a driver running a red light – a 10-year high and a 28% increase since 2012. The rate equates to two people killed every day in the U.S. because someone ran a red light.
The AAA Foundation also found that:
- 28% of motor vehicle accident fatalities that occur at intersections with traffic signals are the result of a driver running a red light.
- Nearly half (46%) of those killed in red-light-running crashes were passengers in the car running the light or in other vehicles.
- More than 5% of those killed in red-light-running crashes were pedestrians or cyclists.
- Just over 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.
Impatient drivers and reckless drivers in New York and elsewhere try to rush through intersections, disregarding red lights and jeopardizing the safety of everyone nearby.
AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research, Jake Nelson, said that distracted driving contributed to the problem as well.
“Drivers distracted on their phones, pedestrians distracted when crossing intersections are all reasonable contributing causes to what we see the data telling us,” Nelson told National Public Radio. “But it’s not the only cause.”
Many intersection fatalities are the result of drivers intentionally speeding and breaking the law, Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council (NSC), told CNN.
Speeding, alcohol and distracted driving continue to be the leading causes of fatal car accidents, according to the NSC, though cellphone use behind the wheel is down.
The AAA says drivers understand the danger of running red lights. In a previous survey, 85% of drivers said they thought running a red light was very dangerous, but nearly 33% said they had done it within the previous 30 days.
More than 40% of drivers said they didn’t think the police would catch them running a red light.
What Can be Done About Running Red Lights Accidents?
Data from the AAA study show that red-light fatalities have decreased in New York State. Despite peaks of 33 in 2008 and 2015, there were 19 in 2017, the peak year nationally.
The AAA also quotes the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which says red light cameras “have reduced the fatal red-light running crash rate in large cities by 21%. Cameras also cut excessive speed by about 80%, according to the IIHS.
A AAA Northeast report from July about NYC adding 750 speed cameras to school zones says that after New York City began using school zone speed cameras on a limited basis in 2014, injuries at locations with traffic cameras dropped 17 percent and speeding dropped by more than 60 percent.
Traffic cameras increase the chances that red-light runners will get ticketed, and well-publicized camera programs discourage would-be violators from trying to beat the odds, Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research, said. She said that traffic camera enforcement is a proven way to reduce red-light running and save lives.
The New York City Department of Transportation told CBS News that its red-light cameras have cut speeding incidents by more than 60% and crashes by 15% since the city became the first to use red-light cameras in the early 1990s.
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg defended red-light cameras against a charge that they are speed traps. “We’re thoughtful and data-driven about where we put the cameras. We’re not trying to have a game of gotcha,” she said.
“New York City has found that 80% of the people who get a $50 camera ticket never get another one,” according to CBS News.
Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths in NYC Vehicle Accidents
Despite the apparent success of red light and speed cameras in New York City, the city has been struggling with a rash of pedestrian fatalities and bicyclist deaths in recent months. The number of pedestrians who died in New York City roadways in the first half of 2019 was up by more than 20% compared to the previous year. The 15 cyclist deaths in the city as of July 1 was more than double the seven killed by July 1, 2018.
The cyclists’ deaths have been primarily blamed on heavy traffic and unsafe street design, but three pedestrians injured in Queens on August 3 were hit by a car when the driver ran a red light and lost control of her car and drove up onto a sidewalk.
“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 AAA says pedestrians and bicyclists should avoid distraction and focus their attention on what is going on around them when entering intersections. Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure that they see you before crossing the road in front of them.
Contact an NYC Car Accident Lawyer After a Red-Light Crash
If you have been hit by a car that has run a red light, you may be able to recover compensation from the driver for your injuries and expenses. The New York City car accident attorneys of David Resnick & Associates can investigate the accident you were involved in and help you hold accountable the reckless driver who caused your injuries. You should not be stuck with a load of medical bills because a New York driver made the decision to drive recklessly and ran a red light, causing an accident. Contact us for an initial consultation, it is always free. If your injury has cost you money for medical bills, time away from work or significant pain and suffering, contact us today.