Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Red-Light Runners Kill 800 Each Year in U.S.

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Annie Finnegan

July 13, 2000 (Washington) -- The red light is meant to be a barrier against oncoming traffic, but all too often the traffic signal is like waving a red flag at oblivious or aggressive motorists. The net result, according to a study supported by the insurance industry, is that 800 people in the U.S. die each year in accidents involving red-light violations.

Some 200,000 are injured in these crashes yearly as well. More than half are innocent victims. Between 1992 to 1998, it's estimated that 6,000 people were killed and 1,500,000 injured in similar situations.

But maybe the answer, or at least part of it, could literally be a snap. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety feels that so-called red-light cameras can catch many violators in the act, or hopefully, stop them from making a mistake that could have lethal consequences.

The Institute looked at how well the cameras did in Oxnard, Calif., and Fairfax, Va., and came to the conclusion that putting intersections under the watchful gaze of the cameras reduced red-light running by 40%. While the number is impressive, it doesn't mean the cameras have yet to show a lower accident or injury rate. Overseas where the cameras have been in use much longer, evidence shows they do reduce crashes.

"Unfortunately, we find over and over again that the most effective way to change driver behavior is to threaten them with a ticket," Institute president Brian O'Neill says. He also says that while most drivers don't believe they'll have an accident, they can be convinced getting a ticket is a reality.

"If the cameras are secret, they're not going to achieve their purpose," O'Neill says.

Ricardo Martinez, MD, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, supports the idea of red-light cameras, particularly since intersection accidents are among the most deadly. One vehicle hits the other driving into it with a bullet-like force. "The injuries are devastating; it's usually chest and pelvis, direct load," he says.

For about $60,000, an intersection can be equipped with cameras. The devices take a picture before a vehicle crosses an intersection threshold and while it's traveling through. Data in the frame indicates how many seconds have elapsed since the light turned red and how fast the offender was going.

Notification of the violation comes by mail. At the moment, red-light cameras are only used in about 40 U.S. jurisdictions, but the Institute hopes that will change. One worry is that the photograph amounts to an invasion of privacy, possibly publicizing who's in the vehicle or the license plate.

Arthur Spitzer, JD, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in the Washington, D.C., area, tells WebMD he's not worried about the red-light cameras, at least as they're currently used.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article