Red light running is a significant cause of traffic-related injuries in Dane County, and was a top concern of Dane County neighborhood leaders, law enforcement officials, health and medical professionals, and businesses who participated in the Coalition’s first Community Traffic Summit in 2001. For a number of years, Safe Communities joined with neighborhoods, local police and traffic engineering departments to identify high-crash intersections and conduct a media campaign to reduce red light running.
Campaign activities, including increased enforcement by Dane County police departments at high crash intersections, ran in conjunction with National Stop on Red Week. Campaign partners posted “Burma Shave” signs at high crash intersections.
For many of us, trying to ‘beat the light’ has become a way to save a few minutes when we’re in a hurry. Or, it’s become habit to speed up when we see a yellow light, instead of slowing down and stopping. Another problem is driver distraction: when drivers aren’t paying attention or are distracted by other passengers, they may run red lights or stop signs. Typically it is the driver who followed the law and stopped on red that is injured, not the driver who caused the crash by rear-ending the car in front.
Whatever the reason, red light running is costly, in terms of injuries, traffic tickets and damage to vehicles. Red light and stop sign running are top causes of motor vehicle-related death and injury historically. Angle collisions can result in very serious head injuries to passengers in vehicles that are hit broadside by motorists running red lights or stop signs. Whiplash, and injuries to the back, knee, ankle, wrist and hand are also common. All this for a time savings of 45 seconds to 1 minute – the average time it takes for a stop light to cycle back to green.
Campaigns have also featured a youth-focused stop on red commercial developed by Momentum Marketing Communications.
Safe Communities members, with Public Health of Madison/Dane County in the lead, have conducted observational studies before and during the campaign to measure its impact. The intention has been to collect data to present to area policymakers, including City of Madison’s Pedestrian, Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Commission, to review whether pursuing the option of photo-enforcement at high crash intersections is warranted. In 2002, the coalition undertook similar studies and observed a red light running incident every 40 seconds at some high crash intersections. The number of drivers running red lights at these intersections went down during the campaign, but in most cases resumed at the same level after the campaign was over.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration designates the first week in August ‘National Stop on Red Week’. This campaign aims to raise awareness through enforcement, safety and education about the dangers of red-light running. Although Safe Communities is not participating in this event, we recommend you visit the Federal Highway Administration’s website for information and outreach for about the Stop Red-Light Running Program.