Farmers Survey: Red Light Running Among Top Causes of Crashes; Men More than Women Feel Need to Run

January 25, 2005

While most people associate fatal auto crashes with speeding or drunk driving, making a trip to the grocery store could prove just as, if not, more treacherous.

A new survey conducted by the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies showed more than 36 percent of motorists admitted to running a red light in the past year – an offense that is the leading cause of crashes in urban areas. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light running crashes cause nearly 1,000 deaths and more than 200,000 injuries each year.

Red light running is defined as a motorist deliberately entering an intersection after the signal light has turned red. According to Farmers, the problem is then exacerbated because generally when people go through a red light, they accelerate to move through the intersection faster before the traffic in the other direction begins – this impulse to drive faster through the intersection, where there may be pedestrians, does not allow for a proper reaction time.

“Observing red light signals can literally prevent thousands of tragic accidents,” said Jeff Beyer, senior vice president & chief communications officer for Farmers Insurance Group. “Drivers must always ask themselves if the few seconds they might save by running a red light are worth the risk of injuring, or even killing, someone.”

The Farmers Insurance survey also showed that more men (42.2 percent) than women (30.9 percent) said they had run a red light in the past year. Additionally, nearly half (48.6 percent) of those in the 18-34 age group said they had sped through a stoplight in the past year. Seven of those polled were habitual offenders, claiming to have run more than 20 red lights in the past year.

Red light cameras have been shown to reduce the number of drivers running red lights, but cameras are only currently allowed in 16 states. According to the IIHS, each year more than 900 people die and nearly 200,000 are injured in crashes that involve red light running.

“Most of the fatalities in these type of crashes are innocent victims – pedestrians and other motorists,” Beyer said. “Losing a life is always tragic, but even more so when it’s the result of something so unnecessary as running a red light.”

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