When it comes to motor vehicle safety, even a momentary lapse of judgment can make the difference between life and death. With over 26 million drivers in the state of California, it is hardly surprising that even cautious motorists may find themselves at risk while on the road.
Unfortunately, all too often careless or distracted drivers can make matters much worse. According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association, in 2017 fatalities related to motorists running red lights reached a 10-year high.
Casualties of carelessness
AAA’s most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index showed that 85% of drivers consider running a red light very dangerous behavior. However, one in three motorists admitted to passing through a red-lit intersection within the previous 30 days even though they could have stopped safely. That is a sobering statistic considering that two or more people die every day in the U.S. due to drivers ignoring red lights—a 28% increase from 2012 fatalities.
The recent AAA study found that Americans are driving more, which may be one reason for increasing fatality numbers. However, distracted driving seems to have had an important impact as well. From the rapid rise of smartphone technology in the late oughts to the increasing popularity of onboard infotainment systems, in-vehicle distractions seem to be taking a toll, with a 31% increase in red-light fatalities between 2009 and 2017.
When drivers decide to run a red light, they may endanger themselves, their passengers and other drivers, but they may also endanger pedestrians, cyclists and other less visible road users. The AAA report showed that more than half of those killed in red-light collisions were individuals outside the offending vehicle.
The study also found that two out of every five drivers do not expect a traffic officer to cite them for their violation. However, while police officers are not able to catch every red-light runner in the act, failing to heed traffic signals can be deadly dangerous. From major vehicle damage to potentially debilitating injuries or even fatalities, it is essential for every California driver to realize that ignoring a red light may have devastating consequences.