AAA: Red-light running deaths in DC area down, but hit 10-year high nationwide

The latest data from AAA mid-Atlantic showed a dip in red-light running fatalities in 2017 compared to 2016 in the D.C. area; but nationwide, the numbers are on a 10-year high.

Analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that, in 2017, there were 14 deaths related to running a red light in Virginia, 16 in Maryland and none in D.C. The numbers are a decrease from 2016: 1 (D.C.), 23 (Maryland) and 17 (Virginia).

From 2008 to 2017 red-light running fatalities totaled 148 in Maryland, 108 in Virginia and six in D.C.

Nationwide, AAA said that 939 people were killed in red-light running crashes in 2017 — a 10-year high and a 28% increase since 2012.

Arizona has the highest rate of red-light running deaths, and New Hampshire has the lowest. Maryland ranks 18th, Virginia 36th and D.C. 40th, AAA data showed.

Who are the victims of these crashes? AAA found that nearly half (46%) of those killed were passengers of other vehicles.

“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 AAA Foundation Executive Director Dr. David Yang in a statement.

Just over 35% of fatalities were the drivers who ran the red light, and 5% were pedestrians or cyclists.

AAA mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend said in a statement that red-light cameras are an “effective tool in reducing traffic deaths” and in changing the behavior of drivers who would blow through red lights.

D.C.’s red-light cameras are installed at locations where chronic violations cause crashes and endanger the community.

In Virginia, counties have the option of installing and operating red-light running camera systems after completing an engineering safety analysis, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. The City of Alexandria, the City of Fairfax, the City of Falls Church and Arlington County in Virginia have such programs, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are among those that have a red-light camera program in Maryland, according to IIHS.

One of the criticisms of red-light camera programs is that they are a way for a jurisdiction to make money. More than one million tickets were issued in D.C. between Sept. 30, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018 from speed and red-light cameras. Montgomery County saw a spike of over 42,000 more tickets issued from red-light cameras from 2012 to 2014.

IIHS found that red-light cameras reduced fatalities from running a red light by 21% in large cities. “Camera enforcement is a proven way to reduce red light running and save lives,” IIHS’ Jessica Cicchino said in a statement to AAA.

Drivers should adapt behavior that will help reduce the number of deaths caused by running a red light. These include:

  • Preparing to stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator over the brake when preparing to enter an intersection. Put your foot over the brake without touching it.
  • Using good judgment: Monitor “stale” green lights that have been green for a while as you approach an intersection. These are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at it.
  • Taping the brake: Tap your brakes a few times to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers behind you.
  • Driving defensively: Before you enter an intersection after a green light, take a second to look both ways before proceeding.

For pedestrians or cyclists, AAA recommends waiting to make sure all cars have come to a stop before moving through an intersection; staying alert, listening and not wearing headphones; being visible by staying at well-lit areas; and making eye contact with drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure that they see you.

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