A vehicle that enters an intersection after the traffic signal has turned red has officially committed the violation of running a red light. If a vehicle has already entered the intersection prior to the light turning red, waiting for a chance to make a left turn, for instance, then this is not considered to be a red light running situation. Furthermore, turning right on red is permitted in some situations and those who come to a complete stop before making a valid turn at the red light are also not considered to be red-light runners, although those who make such a right on red in areas where a right on red is prohibited can still be ticketed.
Now that we have set forth the defining terms as to what is and what is not considered to be a red-light runner, we can get down to the very real dangers involved in running a red light. It is a scarily pervasive problem out there on the roads and people are dying and sustaining serious injuries as a result. We’ll also discuss possible measures to help address the red light running problem in an effort to keep more people on the roads safer.
Red Light Runners
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that red light runners cause hundreds of deaths as well as tens of thousands of injuries each year. In 2020 alone, the IIHS reports that 928 people were killed in crashes involving red light running. Of those 928, half were pedestrians, bicyclists, and people in other vehicles that were hit by someone running a red light. That same year, over 115,000 people were injured in crashes involving red light running.
What can be done? The numbers are clear in showing that red light running is a problem. Some advocate for more red light cameras to deter this dangerous driving behavior. A study conducted by the IIHS found that red light cameras ended up reducing fatal red light running crash rates in large cities by 21 percent. Furthermore, the cameras reduce the rate of all fatal crash types at signaled intersections by 14 percent. Red light cameras are meant to act as a deterrent for those tempted to run red lights. After all, law enforcement can only do so much and only be in so many places at the same time. Red light cameras help monitor those intersections that may otherwise be unmonitored.
There are some who argue that red light cameras violate privacy, but this argument tends to not hold much weight. After all, driving is a highly regulated activity, because it is a dangerous and pervasive activity. Those who are licensed to drive agree to operate by the rules of the road and the cameras only seek to monitor this just as other traditional, in-person law enforcement measures would.
In addition to red light cameras, there are also studies showing that proper signal timing can reduce the chance of red light running and, thus, make intersections safer. Providing drivers with an adequate amount of time for a yellow signal before it turns to red can maximize safety at intersections. With enough yellow light time provided, red light running can be reduced and, in turn, so can the number of red light running crashes. Adjusting yellow signal timings combined with the use of red light cameras could show a profound reduction in red light running crashes.