Alcohol and Vision

Drivers who run red lights are responsible for an estimated 260,000 crashes each year, of which approximately 750 are fatal. On a national basis, fatal motor vehicle crashes at traffic signals increased 24 percent between 1992 and 1997, far outpacing the 6 percent rise in all other fatal crashes. Red light running is a big part of the problem. Institute researchers determined that during this time period there were 3,753 red light running crashes, rising from 702 in 1992 to 809 in 1996, a 15 percent increase.

Running red lights and other traffic controls like stop and yield signs is the most frequent type of urban crash, Institute research shows. Researchers studied police reports of crashes on public roads in four urban areas during 1990 and 1991. Of 13 crash types researchers identified, running traffic controls accounted for 22 percent of all crashes. Among crashes involving running traffic controls, 24 percent involved running red lights. The same study shows that motorists are more likely to be injured in crashes involving red light running than in other types of crashes. Occupant injuries occurred in 45 percent of the red light running crashes studied, compared with 30 percent for other crash types.

"Who cares if you're not speeding?" Vol. 34, No. 6, June 19, 1999

"Evidence is mounting: photo radar helps to lower speeds and reduce injury crashes", Vol. 33, No. 10.

"Red light running crashes increase", Vol. 33, No. 7, July 11, 1998. Click on back issues and use the pull down menu for the date desired.

"Institute Responds to Criticism of Red Light Cameras"

"Study Provides More Evidence That Cameras Reduce Red Light Running"

"Speed Camera Enforcement Cuts Fatality Rate 10 Percent in France"

"In the Nation's Capital, Solid Support for Automated Enforcement"


Retting, R. A.; Ulmer, R. G.; Williams, A. F. Prevalence and characteristics of red light running crashes in the United States. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 31(6):687-694, 1999 (The national prevalence of crashes caused by running a red light was estimated, and the characteristics of such crashes and the drivers involved were identified. It was estimated that approximately 260,000 such collisions, about 750 of them resulting in fatalities, occur annually in the United States. Comparisons of red light-running drivers and drivers in the same crashes who did not run a red light revealed that those who went through the red light were more likely to be under age 30, to have prior moving violations and convictions for driving while intoxicated, to have invalid driver's licenses, and to have been drinking before the crash. Nighttime red light runners were more likely than daytime red light runners to be young, male, and have more deviant characteristics, with 53 percent having high blood alcohol concentrations. Seventy-eight U. S. cities were also ranked on fatal red light-running crashes per 100,000 population; the top 10 were Phoenix (8.11), Mesa (7.08), Memphis (5.45), Tucson (5.11), St. Petersburg (4.95), Dallas (4.89), Fresno (4.89), Birmingham (4.80), Albuquerque (4.77), and Louisville (4.40); the bottom 10 were Akron (0.90), Rochester (0.87), New York City (0.85), Boston (0.73), Arlington, TX (0.68), Cincinnati (0.56), Honolulu (0.45), Columbus, OH (0.31), Pittsburgh (0.28), and Oklahoma City (0.21).

"Officials nationwide give a green light to automated traffic enforcement," STATUS REPORT, Insurance Institute For Highway Safety 35 (3): March 11, 2000. The Institute has provided technical assistance on red light camera issues to more than 70 state and local governments.

"Red light running factors into more than 800 deaths annually; more than half of those who die are hit by red light violators," Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, July 13, 2000.

"Understanding red-light running" from Making Intersections Safer: A Toolbox of Engineering Countermeasures.

More on this subject may be found by searching the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

updated 12/22/16