The number of people killed in red light violation-related accidents is on the rise across the country. Even as the National Highway Traffic safety Administration records drops in other types of accidents, the agency finds that accidents caused by drivers who run red lights remain stubbornly high, and on the increase.
According to data by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the number of people killed in accidents caused when drivers ran red lights actually reached their highest number in many years in 2017, the last year for which these figures are available. That year, there were 939 fatalities caused by drivers running red lights. In 2009, there were 715 such crash deaths, which means an increase of 31 percent from 2009 to 2017. According to these estimates, there are at least two persons killed every day in accidents accused by motorists running red lights.
One major factor that could help explain this staggering increase in the number of red light violations is the explosion of smartphone use during this period of time. The last decade saw a major surge in the use of smartphones across the country. That has meant more numbers of motorists using smart phones while they drive. While cell phones were used to only talk or text, smartphones are used for updating social media, read and write emails, and perform any number of work or entertainment-related tasks at the wheel. An increase in distracted drivers has probably meant more drivers who are less likely to notice a red light while driving.
What is also disturbing is that it’s other people who have to pay the price for such driving behavior, whether related to distractions or not. In fact, estimates suggest that the victims of such accidents are usually not the ones riding in the car of the motorist running the red-light or the errant driver himself, but the drivers, pedestrians or bicyclists struck by the car.
The experts at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggest that better street design, including more efficient use of roundabouts might help prevent such accidents. Crashes that occur at roundabouts tend to be fewer in number, and are also more likely to be lower speed accidents that may not cause as much damage, as a speeding motorist running a red light.