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Red Light Running FAQ

2018-01-24 08:30:00

Red Light Running FAQ


Q - Why is red light running a problems?

A - Red light runners cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries each year. In 2015, 771 people were killed and an estimated 137,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running. Over half of those killed were pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles who were hit by the red light runners.

An Institute study of urban crashes found that those involving drivers who ran red lights, stop signs and other traffic controls were the most common type of crash (22 percent). Injuries occurred in 39 percent of the crashes in which motorists ran traffic controls. 1

Q – How is red light running defined?

A – If a vehicle enters an intersection any time after the signal light has turned red, the driver has committed a violation. Motorists who are inadvertently in an intersection when the signal changes (waiting to turn left, for example) are not red light runners. In locations where a right turn on red is permitted, drivers who fail to come to a complete stop before turning may be considered red light runners. Violations also include people turning right on red at intersections where doing so is prohibited.

Q – Are right turn on red violations dangerous?

A – Yes, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists. Studies conducted after states first adopted right-turn-on-red laws found that allowing right turns on red increased pedestrian and bicyclist collisions at intersections by 43-123 percent. 2, 3 An analysis of intersection crashes in four states found that right-turn-on-red crashes frequently involved pedestrians and bicyclists, and 93 percent of these crashes resulted in injuries to the pedestrians and bicyclists. 4

Q – How often do drivers run red lights?

A – A study conducted during several months at five busy intersections in Fairfax, Va., prior to the use of red light cameras, found that, on average, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection. 5 During peak travel times, red light running was more frequent. An analysis of red light violation data from 19 intersections without red light cameras in four states found a violation rate of 3.2 per hour per intersection. 6

In a 2016 national telephone survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 93 percent of drivers said it's unacceptable to go through a red light if it's possible to stop safely, but 36 percent reported doing so in the past 30 days. 7  In a 2011 Institute survey in 14 large cities with long-standing red light camera programs, 82 percent of drivers said they believed running red lights is a serious threat to their personal safety, and almost all (93 percent) said running red lights is unacceptable. 8 Still, 7 percent of drivers said that they had driven through a light after it had turned red at least once in the past month.

Q – Do red light camera tickets affect driving records or insurance rates?

A – In most states, red light camera citations are treated as civil offenses rather than moving violations. This means that there are no driver license points assessed and no insurance implications. In some states, the law specifically prohibits insurers from considering red light camera citations in determining premiums or renewals. In a few states (Arizona, California, Oregon) red light camera citations are treated the same as citations issued by police officers doing traffic enforcement.


Information provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute

  • 1^ Retting, R.A.; Williams, A.F.; Preusser, D.F.; and Weinstein, H.B. 1995. Classifying urban crashes for countermeasure development. Accident Analysis and Prevention 27(3):283-94.
  • 2^ Zador, P.L. 1984. Right-turn-on-red laws and motor vehicle crashes: a review of the literature. Accident Analysis and Prevention  16(4):241-5.
  • 3^ Preusser, D.F.; Leaf, W.A.; DeBartolo, K.B.; and Blomberg, R.D. 1981. The effects of right-turn-on-red on pedestrian and bicyclist accidents, Report no. DOT HS-806-182. Darien, Connecticut : Dunlap & Associates, Inc. 
  • 4^ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1995. The safety impact of right turn on red: report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • 5ab Retting, R.A.; Williams, A.F.; Farmer, C.M.; and Feldman, A.F. 1999. Evaluation of red light camera enforcement in Fairfax, Va., USA. ITE Journal 69:30-4.
  • 6^ Hill, S.E. and Lindly, J.K. 2003. Red light running prediction and analysis. UTCA Report no. 02112. Tuscaloosa, AL: University Transportation Center for Alabama.
  • 7^ AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 2017. 2016 traffic safety culture index. Washington, DC.
  • 8ab McCartt, A.T. and Eichelberger, A.H. 2012. Attitudes toward red light camera enforcement in cities with camera programs. Traffic Injury Prevention 13(1):14-23.