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Protect Yourself from Deadly Red Light Accidents

by | Oct 6, 2020

There are alarming car accident statistics and then there are alarming car accident statistics. A nearly-30% rise in accident deaths due to a single kind of negligent driving is certainly a case of an alarming car accident statistic.

This is exactly the statistic that AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety reported in 2019 based on an analysis of nearly a decade of traffic crash data. According to the study:

  • Red light running deaths increased by 28.4% from 2012 to 2017,
  • In 2017 alone, 939 people were killed in red light running crashes—the highest number in over a decade, and
  • Red light running caused 28.2% of all deaths at intersections with stoplights.

This breaks down to more than two deaths every day due to negligent red light runners.

How Does This Affect Me?

AAA conducted a survey of drivers as part of the study that found some conflicting evidence that should give you pause if you assume that these statistics can’t and don’t affect your day-to-day life:

  • 85% believed running a red light was very dangerous, but
  • Over 30% say they had run a red light in the last month.

So, while the vast majority of drivers surveyed agreed that running a red light was dangerous, a nearly a third admit that they still run red lights.

Pro Tip: 40% of the drivers that admitted to running red lights, justified doing so because they didn’t think police would stop them. However, running a red light is against the law. A red light runner who’s involved in a deadly crash could be sent to jail.

The numbers for Florida are just as scary and reflect the state’s widespread aggressive driving problem:

  • Florida tied for the 5th highest rate of red light running fatalities in the U.S.,
  • 99 people were killed in 2017 alone by red light running and 741 were killed in total from 2008–2017.
  • 46.7% (346) of the 741 fatalities were the occupant of the other vehicle; additional 5.7% (42) were pedestrians or cyclists.
red light fatalities 2008 to 2017

Moreover, the AAA study numbers represent only fatalities. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that an additional 139,000 people were injured in red light running crashes in 2018, with many hundreds of thousands more injured in the previous years.

At the end of the day, these alarming statistics mean that, whether you actively run red lights or not, you are at risk of being injured or killed in a wreck because someone else decides to run a red light. Accidents involving red light runners are particularly dangerous to other drivers and occupants due to the nature of the collision. The legal processes to protect your rights can be equally daunting, so deciding on the correct path forward for your situation requires a discussion with a qualified car accident lawyer.

Negligence in Red Light Running Accidents and Per Se Liability

Negligence is a central factor in any car accident injury case. Because Florida operates under a comparative negligence standard when assigning liability in car accident cases, shifting as much liability onto the other driver as possible is key to maximizing your personal injury lawsuit compensation.

A driver who violates traffic laws by running a red light before a crash is often considered negligent per se because they have violated a law that was intended to protect the public. In such a case, the injured party can bypass proving the first two elements of regular negligence:

  1. A duty of care existed between the two parties, and
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care.

In effect, the red light runner would be deemed negligent as a matter of law.

Pro Tip: Florida law states that only violations of non-traffic penal statutes will trigger negligence per se. So, for example, in a drunk driving accident, showing that the driver was drunk would establish negligence pe se, because the law that prohibits drunk driving is a penal statute. Violations of traffic laws can still be used as evidence of negligence, but may not be sufficient to trigger negligence per se.

Because the legal standards for negligence versus negligence per se are so nuanced and proving negligence in a car accident claim can be tricky, working with an experienced personal injury attorney is important. But having evidence that one party ran a red light can go a long way to shifting the evidentiary burden onto the defendant.

Avoid Red Light Accidents and Injuries

Proving liability and recovering larger damages is all well and good, but most people who have been in serious car accidents would rather have not been in the accident in the first place. In order to reduce the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities caused by red light runners, it’s critical to adapt your driving behavior.

To prevent red light crashes, the AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Prepare to Stop: When preparing to enter an intersection, lift your foot off the gas pedal and hover over the brake. This half a second head start could be the difference between life and death.
  • Use Good Judgment: As you approach intersections, be aware of the length of the green lights. If the light has been green for a long time, you know it’s more likely to turn yellow as you near the intersection.
  • Drive Defensively: Protect yourself and others with proper defensive driving tactics. Don’t gun the engine to try to make it through yellow lights. Take a second after the light turns green to scan for oncoming vehicles.

Pedestrians and cyclists can also practice safety measures near intersections (although, fewer pedestrian fatalities occur at intersections than you might think). Experts recommend:

  • Wait: Don’t go at the first sign of a walk signal. Take a few extra seconds to scan for potential negligent drivers and make sure all vehicles have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection (especially when there are turn lanes!).
  • Eyes Open: The human body is no match for a 2,000-pound vehicle. Stay alert and look around. Watch and listen for approaching cars, turning cars, revving engines, and other signs of drivers that may decide to run a red light.
  • Be Visible: Don’t jump into traffic suddenly. Make your movements deliberate. 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.

Get Help and Start to Recover

If you’ve been in a car accident in South Florida that was caused by a red light runner, you are probably concerned about many things. But how you are going to pay for your injuries and recovery should not be one of them.

Accidents involving red light runners are particularly dangerous to other drivers and occupants due to the nature of the collision and the speed of the crash.

The personal injury lawyers here at Personal Injury & Accident Law Center would love to speak to you about your case and tell you how we can help you get on the path to a full recovery. Call us today at (561)372-3800 to schedule a free case evaluation or fill out the confidential form below.