When the traffic light turns red at the intersection, all drivers know that means they should stop. However, there are still several motorists who disregard red-lights and speed through intersections when it is no longer their right-of-way.

In fact, a new study determined that the number of drivers who do this has significantly increased in recent years.

What the study found

Last month, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released their findings that red-light running accidents are higher across the country than they have been in the last 10 years. Specifically, the study found:

  • Nearly 939 people were fatally injured in red-light running crashes in 2017
  • 28% of crash fatalities result from drivers running through red lights
  • Vehicle passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists face the highest risk in these crashes

However, according to The Morning Call, Pennsylvania ranked lower in this study than many other states. But our state’s rate of two deaths per million residents is still too high, especially when stopping at red lights should be second nature to all drivers.

Two causes: Distraction v. purpose

There are two conflicting conclusions on what primarily led to the increase of red-light running accidents:

  1. Some researchers believe that drivers ran more red lights because of the rising rates of distracted driving. This would make sense, as drivers looking down at their phone would likely not see the light change.
  2. However, the study also found that one in three drivers reported running a red light on purpose within the last thirty days. 

It is highly likely that the combination of distracted driving and reckless driving is what caused the stark increase these last few years.

What about red-light cameras?

In the 1990s, states across the nation began installing red-light cameras at intersections. That way, they could catch reckless drivers who violated traffic laws and put other drivers in danger.

However, some studies say that these cameras are not entirely effective at decreasing traffic accidents—namely, rear-end crashes when drivers slam on their brakes at red-lights. This is leading some states, like Texas, to rollback their use of red-light cameras. This could potentially only increase the already high rate of accidents.

Signalized intersections are meant to control traffic and help keep drivers safe. But we cannot rely on red-light cameras to prevent these reckless actions. Pennsylvania drivers must be aware of these increased risks and ensure that they always drive defensively, especially when at an intersection.