Red-light runs are No. 1 cause of fatal wrecks

Published 11:45 pm Friday, September 12, 2014

Running through a red light or other traffic control is the most common cause of urban crashes and is also a leading cause of crashes that result in deaths or injuries.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission points out that crashes at intersections often involve a vehicle being hit broadside, which is one of the most dangerous types of collisions.

“Even when it involves a vehicle equipped with side airbags, a broadside hit can cause a rollover — one of the most dangerous events for occupants that can happen in a crash,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “Even if the vehicle that is hit broadside does not roll over, passengers can be more exposed because the sides of vehicles can be more vulnerable than the front and rear.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in a 2008 report that more than 2.3 million intersection-related crashes were reported that year. NHTSA also reports that 762 people were killed in red-light running crashes in 2008, and that an estimated 165,000 people are injured annually by red-light runners.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that half of the people killed in red-light running crashes are not the signal violators, they are drivers and pedestrians hit by red-light runners.

“Most drivers who run red lights probably do so because they are impatient, distracted or late for something,” LeBlanc said. “Running a light might save a minute or two but could have devastating results for the driver, passengers, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles.”

LeBlanc explains that always driving defensively is one of the best ways drivers can protect themselves from a red-light runner. Some defensive driving procedures can include:

• Always buckle seat belts. They greatly increase your chance of surviving a crash. Seat belts are especially important in preventing occupants from being ejected when a vehicle rolls over.

• Never run a red light.

• When you have a green light, take a careful look at cross traffic; look both left and right before entering an intersection.

• Do not switch lanes while in an intersection.

• When approaching an intersection, look both ways and avoid any activity — such as changing radio stations or talking on a mobile phone — that can distract you.