Intersections

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that red light running causes 200,000 crashes per year and 1,100 deaths. Unfortunately, Alabama is among the national leaders in these statistics.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reviewed crash data for a 6-year period in the late 1990s, and determined that Alabama had the fifth worst red-light-running fatality rate in the United States. In the same study, Birmingham had the sixth worst fatality rate in the nation from red light running.

In 2002, the University Transportation Center for Alabama found similar statistics. Over a nine year period, there were 47,501 traffic crashes caused by red light running in Alabama (about 5,500 per year). There were about 16,500 injuries and 194 fatalities in these accidents. These horrible statistics were consistent through the entire period, varying up or down each year by less than 5 percent. In other words, the situation is not getting any better.

All of us have seen people run red lights, usually at a busy intersection when they try to get through the signal before it turns red, rather than sit and wait for the green to come around again. We are disgusted by the careless, calloused nature of those who disregard the signal, because they disregard the safety of others as well. Unfortunately, these risk takers cause “T-bone” accidents, which are very severe because most automobiles offer little protection when hit from the side. That is why red-light running accidents have a higher percentage of people killed and injured than normal accidents.

With the downsizing of government at every level, few cities in Alabama can afford to assign the number of officers it would take to substantially reduce the problem. But there is a solution that is widely accepted in Europe and other locations around the world – camera enforcement. And camera enforcement is growing in the United States, there are more than 110 cities in 16 states now using cameras at intersections. In spite of the growing number of critical articles in the press, surveys of public opinion show that citizens support the use of cameras because of their proven safety benefits. Camera enforcement reduces red light running and reduces severe and fatal crashes.

In Alabama, more than 16,000 families were devastated over nine years because their loved ones were killed or injured in these wrecks. This is a problem that needs to be stopped. Now is the time for stronger legislation for intersection safety. The City Councils in Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Huntsville, Opelika and Auburn have passed resolutions favoring camera enforcement for safety purposes at selected intersections. Bills have been introduced in the Alabama Senate and House to allow operation of cameras under closely controlled situations.

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