Red Light Runner Deaths Hit a 10-Year High

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
December 2, 2019

Most of us have reached an intersection when the light is turning and raced to get through before it turns red. Although it’s understandable to want to avoid waiting this is dangerous behavior that is costing lives. A recent survey found red light runner deaths have hit a 10-year high in America.

The finding is alarming given the increase in red light enforcement cameras in our cities over the last decade. Cameras do not appear to be working as a deterrent to red light runners.

A new report from AAA warned accidents caused by drivers who ran red lights killed 939 people in 2017, the most recent year crash data was recorded for. It was a 28% increase since 2012, AAA stated.

The report found half of the victims of the intersection crashes were passengers or drivers of other cars struck by a red-light runner. Just over one-third of the victims were drivers who ran the light.

AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index found as many as 85% of drivers see red light running as very dangerous. However, nearly one in three said they blew through a red light within the previous month when they could have easily stopped safely. Drivers also believe they will get away with blowing through a light. More than 2 in 5 motorists said it is unlikely they’ll be stopped by police if they run a red light. Nevertheless, it’s against the law in Virginia and elsewhere.  Red light runners who cause a deadly crash can end up in jail.

More seriously, innocent motorists are ending up dead and injured due to the actions of red light runners. Every year, red light runners cause about 165,000 accidents and thousands of injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Talk to a Virginia red light runner accident lawyer if you or a loved one has been injured by a red light runner.

Do Cameras Curtail Red Light Runner Crashes?

The AAA study found enforcement is the most optimal way to get drivers to comply with any law. However, police cannot be at every intersection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found properly administered red light cameras cut the fatal red light running crash rate in large cities by 21% and the rate of all types of fatal crashes at intersections with traffic signals by 14%.

Some cities in Hampton Roads have PHOTOSafe enforcement cameras. Newport News installed cameras in 2010 at three locations on Jefferson Avenue - the intersections with Mercury Boulevard, Denbigh Boulevard, and Oyster Point.

However, no new cameras have been fitted in Newport News for almost a decade. Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake have red light cameras at certain intersections.

In recent years, some cities have shuttered their red light cameras.

What Happens if You Run a Red Light in Virginia?

Drivers who run red lights in Virginia face high fines of up to $350. Motorists commit traffic violations if they enter the intersection after the light turns red. Drivers who are already in the intersection when the light changes, do not commit an offense. If a right turn is allowed on a red light you must come to a complete stop before turning. Drivers who make a right turn on an intersection that forbids right turns on red commit an offense.

Under Virginia law, a steady red “indicates that moving traffic shall stop and remain stopped as long as the red signal is shown, except in the direction indicated by a steady green arrow.”

State law says if a light is a steady amber, cars that have not already entered the intersection, including the crosswalks, must stop if it is not reasonably safe to continue. Traffic which has already entered the intersection should continue to move until the intersection is cleared.

Is Distracted Driving a Factor in the Increase in Red Light Runner Deaths?

An article in USA Today suggested distracted driving due to mobile devices may be fueling red light running. Drivers who are looking at their phones and texting often fail to realize a light has changed.

Distracted driving is thought to be behind a 13% rise in highway fatalities in 2017 when the death toll hit 37,133 - up 13% from the historic low of 32,744 in 2014.

Talk to a Hampton Injury Lawyer About Red Light Running Accidents

Red light runners cause untold misery to families. We have represented people who suffered extreme injuries such as traumatic brain injuries due to the actions of a red light runner. Please contact the Smith Law Center for help at (757) 244-7000.

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