Dangers Presented By Motorists Running Red Lights

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published an April 2013 Q&A concerning red light cameras and related traffic safety issues, such as the frequency of drivers “running” through red lights.

Here are two notable excerpts that illustrate the hazards presented by motorists’ “red light running” :

Red light runners cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries each year. In 2011, 714 people were killed and an estimated 118,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running. About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians, bicyclists and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.

An Institute study of urban crashes found that those involving drivers who ran red lights, stop signs and other traffic controls were the most common type of crash (22 percent). Injuries occurred in 39 percent of the crashes in which motorists ran traffic controls.

A study conducted during several months at five busy intersections in Fairfax, Virginia, prior to the use of red light cameras, found that, on average, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection. 5 During peak travel times, red light running was more frequent. An analysis of red light violation data from 19 intersections without red light cameras in four states found that 1,775 violations occurred over 554 hours for a violation rate of 3.2 per hour per intersection. 6

In a 2012 telephone survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 92 percent of drivers said it’s unacceptable to go through a red light if it’s possible to stop safely, but 38 percent reported doing so in the past 30 days. 7  In a 2011 Institute survey in 14 large cities with long-standing red light camera programs, 82 percent of drivers said they believed running red lights is a serious threat to their personal safety, and almost all (93 percent) said running red lights is unacceptable. Still, 7 percent of drivers said that they had driven through a light after it had turned red at least once in the past month. 8

The Q&A also discusses various issues related to red light cameras, such as whether red light cameras reduce violations and accidents.


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