WASHINGTON, July 13, 2000 -- Drivers who make a split-second decision to
try to beat a red light are to blame for the deaths of more than
800 people and an estimated 200,000 injuries in the United States
each year, according to a study of government figures.
The study to be released today by the Insurance Institute forHighway Safety found that between 1992 and 1998, almost 6,000people died in such crashes, and more than half of them werepedestrians and occupants of other vehicles hit by red lightrunners.
Another 2,779 deaths occurred in the vehicles running the redlights. During the same period, about 1.5 million people wereinjured.
“Red light running is more than just a form of aggressivedriving. People are dying and getting hurt needlessly because ofit,” said Ed Rust Jr., chairman of the institute and chiefexecutive of State Farm Insurance, said in a written statement.
Researchers from the nonprofit institute studied data from theDepartment of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting Systemand found that fatal crashes at traffic signals increased 18percent from 1992 and 1998, more than three times the rate ofincrease for all other fatal crashes during that time.
Arizona Tops List
In each state, the researchers examined the rate of red lightrunning deaths per 100,000 residents and determined that the stateswith the highest death rate were Arizona, with a rate of 7.1deaths; Nevada with 3.9; Michigan with 3.7; Texas with 3.5; andAlabama with 3.4.
Among cities, the rate was highest in Phoenix, with 10.8 deathsper 100,000 people, followed by Memphis, Tenn., with a rate of 8.0;Mesa, Ariz., with a rate of 7.8 deaths; Tucson, Ariz., and St.Petersburg, Fla., both with a rate of 7.6 deaths.
In releasing the data, the institute endorsed the use of redlight cameras, which photograph vehicles running red lights andticket violators by mail. Such programs, used in about 40 U.S.communities, reduce red light running by about 40 percent,according to the institute.
However, privacy advocates, including the American CivilLiberties Union, have said they are wary because of privacyconcerns.
“We haven’t opposed cameras for the specific use enforcingtraffic violations,” said Barry Steinhardt, associate director ofthe American Civil Liberties Union. “We are concerned aboutmission creep, that these cameras will be used for other purposes,and it’s classically true that surveillance techniques created forone purpose are rarely restricted to that purpose.”