Running a red light can be a risky decision

Think you can beat that red light? It’s a gamble you might not survive — or, if you do, someone else might not.

More than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by impatient and reckless drivers blowing through red lights, according to data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The most recent crash data available shows 939 people died in 2017 because a motorist tried to run through a red light — a 10-year high and a 28% increase since 2012.

Those grim numbers should be enough to get people to hit the brakes when they see a yellow light. Yet for those who don’t get the message, AAA offers some additional advice for drivers when approaching signalized intersections, along with pedestrians and cyclists to stay alert when crossing the street.

According to the AAA Foundation:

– 28% of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light;

– Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red light running fatalities with 5 per 1 million residents while New Hampshire has the lowest rate with 0.4 per 1 million. Michigan has 2.9 per 1 million residents.

– Nearly half, or 46%, of those killed in red-light running crashes were passengers or people in other vehicles and more than 5% were pedestrians or cyclists. More than 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.

“Drivers who decide to run a red light when they could have stopped safely are making a reckless choice that puts other road users in danger,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The data shows that red-light running continues to be a traffic safety challenge. All road safety stakeholders must work together to change behavior and identify effective countermeasures.”

According to the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, 85% of drivers view red light running as very dangerous, yet nearly 1 in 3 say they blew through a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped safely.

More than 2 in 5 drivers also say it is unlikely they’ll be stopped by police for running a red light. Nevertheless, it’s against the law and if a driver is involved in a deadly crash, it could send them to jail.

Changes in driver behavior also are critical to reducing the number of red-light running crashes on U.S. roads. To prevent red light crashes, AAA recommends that drivers:

– Prepare to stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.

– Use good judgment: Monitor “stale” green lights — those that have been green a long time. They are more likely to turn yellow as drivers arrive at the intersection.

– Tap the brakes a couple times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.

– Drive defensively: Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

Pedestrians and cyclists also should stay safe when traveling near intersections. AAA recommends:

– Wait a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.

– Stay alert and listen: Don’t take chances and don’t wear headphones. Watch what is going on and give full attention to the environment around you.

– Be visible: Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.

– Make eye contact: Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.