There’s not much debate about how dangerous it is to run a red stoplight at an intersection. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 85% of motorists said it is very or extremely dangerous to cruise through a red light. Yet alarmingly, running red lights is still a prevalent problem that seems to be getting worse.
In 2017, the U.S. saw the most red light-running crash fatalities in a decade, with 939 people killed. Surprisingly, that same study from AAA found that while most drivers say running a red light is dangerous, nearly one out of every three drivers drove through a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped.
When is running a red light illegal?
Anytime that you enter an intersection after a stoplight has turned red, you have broken the law. However, if you’re in the intersection while the light is changing from yellow to red, such as when making a left turn, it is perfectly legal.
But while it’s legal to enter the intersection when the light is changing from yellow to red, you should never try to accelerate to beat the light. The timer on stoplights is designed to allow just enough time for a driver to either safely deaccelerate and stop before the crosswalk at an intersection or allow the driver to drive through the intersection without adjusting their speed.
Staying safe at intersections
You might think you can stay safe at intersections so long as you abide by the traffics signals, but in urban areas, someone runs a red light at an intersection an average of every 20 minutes. To avoid crashes caused by negligent drivers at intersections, you should always:
- Get ready to stop: As you approach an intersection, prepare to take your foot off the gas pedal and position it over the brake if you need to stop.
- Use your judgment: Keeping an eye on a light at an intersection can help you avoid accidents. For example, if the light has been green for some time, you can anticipate that it will likely turn yellow as you approach.
- Tap your brake: If you are coming up to a yellow or red light, it’s a good idea to tap on your brakes a few times before you entirely apply them. This action will allow your brake lights to catch the attention of any drivers behind you who may be inattentive.
- Beware on green: When your light turns green, be sure to look both ways as you start to accelerate to ensure you don’t miss a vehicle running a red light.
Whether drivers run red lights because they miss them or are merely ignoring the rules, they put everyone on the road at risk. To avoid potentially deadly accidents at intersections, always drive defensively and never try to run the light.