AAA warns drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists to exercise caution at signalized intersections

BOISE – (August 29, 2019) – At least two people are killed every day on U.S. roads as a result of reckless or inattentive drivers who run a red light, according to a new report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In 2017, the most recent year on record, 939 people were killed in red light running crashes, a ten-year high.  Just over one-third of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light.  The rest were passengers, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists.

“There’s an unacceptable amount of collateral damage caused by the selfish and impatient actions of a few,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.  “A driver’s desire to get somewhere faster is never more important than the safety of other road users.”

According to AAA’s most recent Traffic Safety Culture Index, 85 percent of drivers view red light running as very dangerous, yet nearly one in three say that they blew through a red light when they could have safely stopped.  Their willingness to break the law could stem in part from the fact that 40 percent of drivers also say it’s unlikely that they’ll be stopped by police for running a red light.

From 2008 to 2017, there have been 12 red-light running deaths on Idaho roads.  As the Gem State continues to experience strong population growth, it will take a concerted effort between drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to make progress toward zero deaths.

“We need to stay out in front of this issue,” Conde said.  “People should develop good driving habits without waiting for law enforcement or technology to force them to do the right thing.”

According to AAA’s analysis of a decade of data, 56 percent of red-light running fatalities occurred during the day, when a larger number of people are driving.


AAA’s advice for drivers

To prevent red light crashes, drivers should:

  • Prepare to stop.  Cover the brake with your foot as you enter the intersection, without touching it.  That way you can react quickly.
  • Use good judgment.  Watch for “stale” green lights that may soon turn yellow.
  • Tap the brake.  Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to alert inattentive or distracted drivers behind you to slow down.
  • Drive defensively.  Don’t ‘gun it’ when the light turns green.  Wait a second and look both ways before proceeding.


AAA’s advice for bicyclists and pedestrians

You don’t have to be in an automobile to prevent a red-light crash.  Bicyclists and pedestrians should:

  • Wait. Make sure all vehicles have come to a complete stop before you proceed.
  • Stay alert.  Don’t wear headphones or anything that obstructs your vision while you’re crossing an intersection.  Pay attention to the environment around you.
  • Be visible.  Stay in well-lit areas, and wear bright, reflective clothing at night.
  • Make eye contact.  Don’t assume that a driver sees you.  Make sure before you cross in front of them.


About 28 percent of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running a red light.  Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red-light running fatalities, while New Hampshire has the lowest rate.

“When people have the right of way at an intersection, it may give them a false sense of security,” Conde said.  “It’s good to be vigilant, and maybe just the slightest bit paranoid, before you enter an intersection.  We also need drivers to make the right call – yellow means slow down, not speed up.”