Red Light Fatalities at a Ten-Year High

Every week, approximately fifteen people are killed in the United States by drivers running through red lights, which is a ten-year high. It is common when pulling up to a stoplight to notice other drivers looking at their phones, talking to passengers, or simply just not paying attention to the road and their surroundings directly in front of them. Pennsylvania ranks ninth in the U.S. for the number of people killed by motorists running red-lights between 2008 and 2017.

In this ten-year period, 251 Pennsylvanians lost their lives because of motorists running red-lights. The increase in fatalities is not unique to Pennsylvania as the number of associated traffic fatalities nationwide was at its highest point in this last ten-year period.

Data analysis by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed 939 people were killed in red-light running crashes in 2017, the most recent crash data available, which is a 28 percent increase since 2012. Just over 35 percent were the drivers who ran the red light while almost 50% of those killed were passengers or people in other vehicles. More than five percent were pedestrians or cyclists.

California had the highest number of deaths with 1,153. Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red-light running fatalities, while New Hampshire has the lowest rate. With 251 fatalities, Pennsylvania ranked ninth among the states between 2008 and 2017 in the number of red-light running fatalities. Of its neighbors, Ohio had 229 deaths and West Virginia had just 17.

In Pennsylvania, 91 of the 251 deaths were the drivers of the vehicles which ran the red-light, while 105 of them were the occupants of other vehicles. Thirty-two deaths were the passengers of the red-light running drivers and 23 were pedestrians or cyclists. There were 31 red-light running deaths in the state in 2017, the most since 32 in 2013.

A paradox is that most motorists recognize the danger involved in running a red-light, yet most do it regularly. According to AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, 85 percent of drivers view red-light running as very dangerous, yet nearly 33% say they ran a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped safely.

Changes in driver behavior are also critical to reducing the number of red-light running crashes. AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Prepare to stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use good judgment: Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow upon arrival at the intersection.
  • Tap the brake: Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive defensively: Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green , take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

The attorneys at Powell Law are distinguished personal injury attorneys who carry on a 115-year tradition of providing thoughtful, effective representation protecting and asserting the rights of Pennsylvanians living in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for representation in personal injury cases in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777.

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