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Drivers Ed

The Problem of Red Light Running

Many motorists run red lights, according to a national survey by Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, and it's a serious problem resulting in many accidents and fatalities each year.

A study by Farmers, investigated the driving habits of about 1,000 people, and discovered that:

  • More than 36% of motorists admitted to driving through a red light in the past year despite the fact that is a major cause of vehicular crashes in urban areas.
  • More men (42.2 percent) than women (30.9 percent) said they had driven through a red light in the past year
  • 48.6 percent of those in the 18 to 34 age group said they had driven through a stoplight in the past year. Seven of those surveyed acknowledged that they were habitual offenders, saying that they have gone through more than 20 red lights in the last year.

"Stopping at red lights without a doubt can prevent thousands of needless tragic accidents in a given year," said Mary Flynn, Media Relations Manager for Farmers Insurance Group, based in Los Angeles. "We at Farmers urge motorists to always ask themselves if the few seconds they might save by running a red light are worth the risk of injuring, or even killing themselves or others."

"Keep in mind that the vast majority of the fatalities in these type of tragic incidents are innocent victims. These are pedestrians and other motorists," Flynn said. "Make no mistake that a lost life in any vehicular crash is tragic, but that's even more true when the fatal accident is caused by a red light runner."

Farmers' findings are supported by numbers provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in Virginia. IIHS noted that there were more than 200,000 crashes caused by red light runners, resulting in 176,000 injuries and 934 deaths in 2003, the most recent year in which such statistics were available.

In 1997, the U.S. Census Bureau released a list of the cities and states that had the highest per-capita number of deaths caused by red-light runners. According to the report, residents in Arizona are almost twice as likely to die in an accident caused by a red-light runner than any other state.

Cities and States with highest death rates
in red light running crashes per 100,000 people, 1992-98

Sources: Fatality Analysis Reporting System,
U.S. Department of Transportation; population data from U.S.
City/State Population Deaths Rates per 100,000
Pheonix, AZ 1,125,599 122 10.8
Memphis, TN 614,067 49 8
Mesa, AZ 333,756 26 7.8
St. Petersburg, FL 237,480 18 7.6
Birmingham, AL 256,386 18 7
Dallas, TX 1,047,816 73 7
Albuquerque, NM 412,625 28 6.8
Louisville, KY 260,572 17 6.5
Detroit, MI 998,523 65 6.5
State Population Deaths Rates per 100,000
Arizona 4,280,998 305 7.1
Nevada 1,529,841 59 3.9
Michigan 9,655,540 355 3.7
Texas 18,677,046 663 3.5
Alabama 4,255,686 143 3.4
New Mexico 1,670,580 56 3.4
Florida 14,197,723 434 3.1
California 31,645,023 434 3.1
Deleware 717,499 21 2.9

IIHS spokesman Russ Rader explains that red light running is defined as driver intentionally entering an intersection after the signal light has turned red, and he described the magnitude of the problem as "rampant."

"Red light running continues to be a problem in many communities and is a deadly cost imposed on our nation," emphasized Rick Capka, deputy administrator of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in Washington, D.C. "Motorists must stop for red lights -- there are no excuses," Capka insisted.

The fatal consequences of red light running are well known to Ann Sweet of Warsaw, Ind., a member of the Advisory Board of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. On Oct. 27, 1997, Sweet's daughter, Shawnee, in her early 20s -- a college graduate with wedding plans along with a new job -- was killed in a traffic accident caused by a semi-flatbed truck that ran a red light and plowed into her.

Sweet points out that, "So many people run red lights because they assume they won't get caught. We live in a hurry-up society, and too many people have no compunctions about running red lights and possibly endangering other people's lives in order to save a few minutes driving."

A complete city list of death rates in red light running crashes is available online from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Original article can be found at Insurance.com: Red Light Running is a Rampant Problem