One of the first things you learn about driving is how traffic lights work. This is an easy concept most of us are taught as children. Green means go, yellow means slow down, and red means stop. As we get older, we also learn that there are more nuances than that.
Green means go when it is safe to do so. When the traffic light is yellow, you should slow down and stop unless you are too close to the intersection to do so safely. You should always stop at a red light, although you are allowed to make a right turn on red in some cases.
Running a red light is never safe or acceptable. Unfortunately, if you’ve spent any time at all driving around Peru, IL, you’ll have seen your fair share of drivers who treat red lights as more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. The practice is not at all uncommon, and often leads to serious or even fatal car accidents.
Red Light Running Is Common
It is important to distinguish between acts that constitute red light running and those that don’t. The following may involve a driver completing their travel through a red light in an act that is not illegal:
- Making a turn on a red light after first coming to a complete stop and checking to make sure that the coast is clear of other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians
- Completing a driving maneuver such as a left turn after being inadvertently caught in the intersection while the signal changed
Red light running is instead considered any act of entering an intersection after the light has already turned red, other than to safely complete a legal right turn. The rate at which people run red lights is alarming. In 2017, red light running fatalities reached their highest point in ten years with 939 deaths. Out of all intersection fatalities, 28% are a direct result of red light running.
In most cases, fatalities do not occur among the drivers who blow through red lights. Instead, fatalities fall along the following breakdown:
- 46% – Passengers in other vehicles
- 5% – Pedestrians or cyclists
- 35% – Drivers who ran the red light
According to the AAA Foundation’s 2020 Traffic Safety Culture Index Survey, 85% of respondents said they believe running a red light is either very or extremely dangerous. Despite most people agreeing that this behavior is dangerous, the 2019 TSCI survey found that 39% of respondents who had been involved in an accident in the month prior to the survey had run a red light. Of those who had not been in a crash in the month prior, 30% admitted to running a red light.
Self-reported surveys that ask respondents to volunteer information that might be sensitive or cast them in a poor light are not always entirely accurate. This is not to say that there is no use for self-reported surveys, but it is important to note that the actual number of drivers who run red lights might be higher than the number of those who admit to doing so.
In an analysis of violations for red light running in states without red light cameras, researchers noted 3.2 violations every hour for every intersection. That is approximately one red light violation every 20 minutes. While red light cameras lower the overall rate of red light running, they are not 100% effective at eliminating the practice.
Red Light Cameras Prevent Accidents and Injuries
Red light cameras are connected to traffic lights and sensors, which trigger when they should be taking pictures of drivers as they pass through red lights. These cameras are designed and positioned to continuously monitor intersections for any cars that do not stop once the traffic signal has switched to red.
When a driver is photographed by a red light camera while running a red light, they will be ticketed and required to pay a fine of $100. A red light camera ticket will not go on your driving record, as it is not technically considered to be a moving violation. The fine associated with red light camera tickets is also less than the $120 fine you would have to pay if a police officer caught you running a red light in person.
Although red light cameras are not without controversy, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that they are effective at both reducing the number of red light violations as well as the overall number of intersection crashes. The number of fatal crashes caused by red light running is 21% lower at intersections equipped with red light cameras compared to those without.
Reductions in violations associated with red light cameras can further be broken down by the time elapsed after a traffic light turns red:
- .5 seconds after the light turns red – 39% fewer offenses
- 1 second after the light turns red – 48% fewer offenses
- 5 seconds after the light turns red – 86% fewer offenses
How to Safely Travel Through Traffic Lights
Traffic lights help maintain an orderly flow of movement by alternating right of way between conflicting flows of traffic. However, they can only serve their full function if all drivers adhere to the traffic rules. Here are some easy rules:
- Come to a full and complete stop at red lights. Red light running is dangerous and potentially fatal. Never attempt to cross an intersection if the light is red. If you are turning right, you must come to a complete stop and make sure that the way is clear before completing your turn. Running a red light could also earn you a red light camera ticket and a $100 fine.
- Stop at yellow lights when possible. The yellow light is not an indication that you should speed up to try to pass through the intersection before it turns red. Instead, it serves as a signal to slow down and prepare to stop. Stop at yellow lights when possible, and only proceed through a yellow light when you are too close to the intersection to safely stop.
- Yield for pedestrians. Drivers must always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Even if you believe you have the right of way or a pedestrian is crossing in front of your path when the light is green, it is your responsibility as the driver of a motor vehicle to keep a safe lookout and wait until the pedestrian has cleared the path.
- Stop behind the white line. Most intersections have horizontal white lines that indicate where you should stop your vehicle. If you stop past this white line, you might block pedestrian crosswalks or stick out into oncoming lanes of traffic.
Getting Help After a Red Light Accident
When drivers run red lights, they are putting you and everyone else on the road at risk for serious injury. If you were involved in a red light running accident, you deserve help to get back on your feet.
At Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP, we put our years of experience and knowledge to work for you. Whether you are getting pushed around by the insurance company or having trouble valuing your claim, our car accident lawyers can play a compassionate and supportive role in your effort to secure compensation.
If you are ready to find out more about how you may be able to get compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, disability and more, contact us to schedule a free, no obligation case evaluation.