When driving, do you ever find proceeding through an intersection nerve-racking? How many times have you witnessed a less careful driver on the roadway run a red light? You might be surprised how common the problem is. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that 54 percent of Americans consider running red lights just as reckless as drinking and driving, and nearly one-third of all Americans personally know someone who has been victimized – hurt or even killed – by a driver who failed to stop at a red light.

The illegal status of proceeding through an intersection when the light is red should go without saying. Photo Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons license).

Putting a Stop to Red-Light Runners

To try to curb the problem and educate drivers, the FHWA declared the first week in August – this year, Sunday, August 4 to Saturday, August 10 – as National Stop on Red Week. The observance, which occurs each year, serves as an annual reminder of why precisely following traffic laws matters. While the specific event lasts only a week, the information shared is valuable for a lifetime. The Stop Red-Light Running program, first instituted in the mid- to late-1990s, has decreased incidents of red-light running by as much as 15 percent, the FHWA claims. That means fewer accidents and close calls, fewer injuries and deaths, and less property damage. To implement National Stop on Red Week activities in your community, start here.

Why Drivers Run Red Lights – and How to Stop Them

Avoiding running a red light is simple. We know from the moment we begin learning to drive – in fact, from the time we’re children, playing games like “red light/green light” – that the color red in a traffic signal is an unambiguous sign to stop. Yet still, people do it. A major obstacle to preventing people from running red lights is the changing perception of the problem as insignificant and understanding the reasons it occurs. Though we know that running a red light could cause a collision, many people believe that an accident simply won’t happen to them. The good news is, that mistaken belief that running a red light doesn’t significantly increase accident risk is changing. The FHWA reports that 91 percent of Americans consider running a red light “extremely dangerous.”

If we are to make a real dent in the red-light running statistics, we must understand why it happens. Do people run red lights because of a need to reach their destination on time, and if so, how can we encourage drivers to leave for their destination earlier and slow down on the road? Or is red-light running just another symptom of the distracted driving crisis? How can we persuade drivers once and for all to put down their cell phones, put both hands on the wheel, and pay attention?

In a question with such drastic consequences, there are no stupid answers. Even if the only effect that National Stop on Red Week has is keeping the danger of running a red light fresh in our minds, we can all benefit from paying a little more attention to this important safety problem. If you personally have been injured by a driver who ran a red light, you may have questions. Contact us to learn about your options and your legal rights.

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