Continuing our series on the most common causes of car and truck crashes, one of the top causes of predictable, preventable crashes is a driver running a red light.
Truck driver causes red light crash
Recently, I handled and ultimately resolved a legal claim from a red light crash.
A commercial truck driver ran a red light at a high rate of speed. It was a severe crash, and the resulting injuries changed my clients’ lives.
In this case, as the commercial truck driver did not even slow down as he was approached the intersection.
Clearly, the trucker was distracted as the vehicle entered the intersection at full speed, on a red light.
I have seen this so many times: vehicles collide in the intersection because a driver thinks he can make the light before it changes.
Or even worse, because the driver thinks that the intersection is clear and he can “make it” across.
About 20% of motor vehicle fatalities in Washington state are the result of red light crashes. These are the among most serious and deadly collisions because they are so often t-bone crashes.
Two types of red light crash cases
From my perspective as a personal injury attorney, I see are two main types of red light crash cases.
1. A driver approaching an intersection speeds up at a yellow light, or fails to stop.
When a driver approaching an intersection sees a yellow light, the response should be to slow down—not to speed up in an attempt to get through the intersection.
Washington State law identifies a steady yellow signal as a warning that the green light is ending, and the red light is coming next. It does not require drivers to stop on yellow, unless there are pedestrians in the intersection. In contrast, Oregon State Law requires drivers to stop for a yellow light unless the driver cannot stop safely.
But, speeding up in an intersection in order to make it through a yellow light, is a violation of the law.
If you have time to stop safely for a yellow light, then you probably don’t have time to make it through the intersection before the light turns red.
A leading excuse cited by people that run a red light is “being in a hurry.” This idea—that your time is more important than other drivers’ physical safety—has led to the staggeringly high crash statistics.
2. The driver does not see the red light at in the intersection, for whatever reason – alcohol, distraction, etc.
A larger group of red light runners are the inattentive or distracted drivers – like the truck driver who caused the crash above. These drivers were either incapacitated, or not paying enough attention to even notice the traffic lights.
Once again, we note that distracted driving causes car crashes.
There is basically no excuse for this kind of red light crash – which is why we call it a crash, not an “accident.”
Ten things to know about running red lights, from USDOT:
- You or your loved ones are more likely to be injured due to a red-light running related crash than any other type of crash.
- Running a red light or other traffic control is the most common cause crashes in urban areas.
- Someone runs a red light an average of every 20 minutes at urban intersections.
- In the last decade, red light running crashes killed nearly 9,000 people.
- An estimated 165,000 motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are injured annually by red-light runners.
- Half of the people killed by red-light runners are not the signal violators — they are passengers, other motorists, pedestrians,
- Nearly 93% of drivers believe running a red light is unacceptable, yet 1 in 3 drivers reported doing so in the past 30 days.
- There are an average of 7 fatal accidents and over 1,000 injury crashes EVERY DAY at signalized intersections across the United States.
- The cost to society of all crashes exceeds $230 billion annually.
- The tragedies and costs resulting from red-light running are preventable!
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