According to AAA, drivers running red lights jumped almost 30% from 2012 to 2017. (Photo: Shutterstock) According to AAA, drivers running red lights jumped almost 30% from 2012 to 2017. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The number of people killed as the result of drivers running red lights has spiked sharply in recent years, according to an analysis of crash data by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. And, more often than not (almost 65% of the time), the victim is not the offending driver.

“This disturbing trend impacts everyone on our roadways – drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public and government affairs manager at AAA Blue Grass. “It is critical that all parties understand this increased risk and adjust their behaviors accordingly. While you can’t control the bad behavior of other drivers, you can change your own behavior to minimize risk.”

Statistics indicate that deaths caused by drivers running red lights jumped almost 30% from 2012 to 2017, the most recent year for which crash data is available. According to the AAA, impatient, distracted, and reckless drivers racing through red lights claim at least two lives every day across the United States.

The most recent crash data available shows that in 2017, there were 939 people killed in crashes caused by running red lights — a 10-year high.

“Drivers who decide to run a red light when they could have stopped safely are making a reckless choice that puts other road users in danger,” said Dr. David Yang, the foundation’s executive director. “The data shows that red light running continues to be a traffic safety challenge. All road safety stakeholders must work together to change behavior and identify effective countermeasures.”

AAA’s findings

According to the AAA Foundation:

  • 28% of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light.
  • Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red light running fatalities, while New Hampshire has the lowest rate.
  • Nearly half (46%) of those killed in crashes caused by running red lights were passengers or people in other vehicles, and more than 5% were pedestrians or cyclists. Just over 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.

Eighty-five percent of drivers said that they view red light running as very dangerous, yet nearly one in three said that they blew through a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped safely, according to the AAA Foundation’s latest traffic safety culture index.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that when properly implemented, red light cameras reduced the fatal red light running crash rate of large cities by 21% and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at signalized intersections by 14%.

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