With over 26 million licensed drivers in the state, Californians are familiar with congested traffic and hectic commutes, especially in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, more drivers on the road mean a higher chance that even a momentary lapse of judgment may have deadly results. That is especially true at intersections, where pedestrians and cyclists are particularly vulnerable. 

A recent study by the American Automobile Association found that, despite the obvious risk, a surprising number of Americans habitually run red lights, whether due to carelessness, impatience or distraction. The study found that, in 2017, the number of red-light running fatalities reached a 10-year high, with a 28% increase from 2012. 

Onboard distractions 

The AAA study found that American roadways are busier than ever, which likely contributed to the increase in deaths. However, the report also suggests a strong link between red-light fatalities and the rising popularity of smartphones and onboard infotainment systems. The study showed that red-light deaths increased by 31% between 2009 and 2017. 

Risky behaviors 

The AAA’s recent Traffic Safety Culture Index also highlights the troubling disconnect between American attitudes about red-light running and American behavior. Despite the fact that 85% of U.S. motorists consider it very dangerous to run a red light, one in three drivers admitted to having done so within the past 30 days—even when they could have come to a safe stop. With more than two people dying due to red-light negligence every day in the U.S., that is a sobering statistic. 

Tips for preventing red light crashes 

AAA’s report showed that 44.5% of those killed in red-light collisions were occupants of another vehicle. To avoid a potential incident with a careless motorist, it is important that drivers take a defensive approach when entering any intersection. Drivers should be sure to look both ways before proceeding, even if they have the right of way, and be ready to stop if needed by taking their foot off the accelerator and covering the brake.