We all learned the rules as children: green light means go, yellow light means slow, and perhaps most importantly, red means stop. Unfortunately, adults seem to be forgetting that lesson.
The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, according to a study by Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA). Nearly 1,000 people were killed in a year, according to the most recent statistics available — that’s a 30 percent increase from 10 years ago.
Almost half of the people killed in those crashes were passengers or drivers of other cars hit by a red-light runner. And just over one-third of the victims were the driver who ran the light, the AAA study found.
The reason for the uptick may surprise you. While distracted driving played a role, traffic lights that weren’t timed appropriately were also to blame. But perhaps most surprising? Many crashes are the result of drivers intentionally speeding and breaking the law by running red lights. About one in three drivers said they’d done it within the last 30 days, even when they could’ve safely stopped, AAA reported. The reason drivers ran a red light even though they knew it was against the law is equally as surprising. About 2 in 5 drivers don’t think police will pull them over for dangerous driving.
The Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is urging drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to use caution at traffic signals.
“Like crashes cause by those driving under the influence, crashes caused red light runners are 100 percent preventable crimes,” said David Cohn, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Drivers who decide to run a red light are making a selfish and reckless choice that puts all of us on the roadways in danger.”
The good news is there are several things we can do to prevent red-light crashes. Continue reading this blog post to learn how.
RED LIGHT CAMERAS
Crashes caused by red light runners can be curbed with red light cameras, which take photos and a 12-second video of the driver when a car runs a red light.
In fact, such cameras reduced red light violations by 40% in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those cameras take photos of vehicles that run red lights, which police can review for ticketing purposes. Running a red light will cost the offender $490, according to the Judicial Council of California, which sets fines for traffic offenses.
Locally, the Bakersfield Police Department reviews about 1,500 to 2,000 violations per month, according to The Bakersfield Californian. On average, 37 are cited each day. Red-light cameras are stationed at 10 Bakersfield intersections.
- Bernard Street and Oswell Street
- California Avenue and Oak Street
- California Avenue / New Stine Road / Stockdale Highway
- Chester Avenue and Brundage Lane
- Coffee Road and Stockdale Highway
- Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue
- Ming Avenue and Valley Plaza
- Ming Avenue and Real Road
- Ming Avenue and Old River Road
- White Lane and Wible Road
These intersections with red light cameras saw collisions reduce by more than 80%, according to a recent Kern County Grand Jury report.
HOW TO AVOID RED LIGHT CRASHES
Besides putting in more red light cameras, Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommends pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers do several things to avoid crashes at intersections.
- Drivers should monitor “stale” green lights — those that have been green a long time as you approach the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
- Prepare to stop. Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
- Use good judgment. Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
- Tap the brake. Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
- Drive defensively. Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
- Wait. Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.
- Stay alert and listen. Don’t take chances. Watch what is going on and give your full attention to the environment around you.
- Be visible. Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
- Make eye contact. Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.
- Never wear headphones or earbuds while commuting or talk on the phone.