Unless you just got your driver's license, every driver has gone through a red light at some time. When we do, we usually run the red light on purpose. We have no intention of causing a crash but just "stepped on it" to avoid stopping, fully intending to clear the intersection before the vehicles from the cross street or road get started. Most of the time it works and there is no crash. We may sheepishly look to see if there is a police car in sight, but again, we usually get away with it. Every time we run a red light without a crash or ticket, it reinforces our belief that a little red light running is OK.
However, in 2009, red light running killed 676 people in the U.S., the equivalent of about five commercial jetliners, and injured an estimated 113,000 according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in their February, 2011 issue of "Status Report". The report goes on to say that nearly two-thirds of the deaths were people other than the red light running drivers - occupants of other vehicles, passengers in the red light runner's vehicles, bicyclists or pedestrians.
When crashes resulting from running red lights do occur, they are often more severe because it usually results in a T-bone type of crash. The violating vehicle T-bones into another vehicle or gets T-boned itself. Another major problem, unless witnesses speak up, is that both drivers say they had the green light.
Driver distraction also leads to red light running. Sometimes we are so distracted that we don't realize the light is red, or we look up too late to stop safely. Lets face it -we just don't concentrate enough on our driving and this results in mistakes being made which often leads to crashes, or if we're lucky, near misses.
The February "Status Report" reviewed statistics from 2009, the latest year that figures were available. Consider the following:
-10 percent of red light runners in 2009 fatal crashes were teenagers.
-11 percent of people killed in red light running crashes were motorcyclists.
-22 percent of red light runners in fatal crashes were driving without licenses.
Now that we have identified a major problem, next week's "Did You Know" article will deal with a proven solution - red light cameras.
For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board website at www.franklincony.org/content/Departments/View/24.
Dave Werner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.