The Dangers of Red Light Running

Running red lights happens frequently at intersections.[1] Whether accidental or intentional, running a red light running can cause collisions, injuries, and deaths.[2] To keep yourself and other drivers safe, it is important to understand what it means to run a red light, and why it is so dangerous.

What Does It Mean to Run a Red Light?

Many people understand that running a red light means driving through an intersection when the traffic signal is red. However, drivers who are unintentionally in an intersection when the signal turns red are not “running a red light” provided they entered the intersection under a green light. [3] This means that drivers in the intersection waiting to turn left are not running a red light if the traffic signal turns red.[4] Running a red light occurs only when a driver enters an intersection after the traffic signal has turned red.[5] This includes drivers who turn right on red without first coming to a complete stop, or when a right on red is prohibited.[6]

Red Light Running and Vehicle Crashes

Running red lights is a common cause of vehicle crashes nationwide.[7]  Last year, more than 3.7 million drivers ran a red light.[8] Sadly, drivers who run red lights cost innocent lives – in 2013, nearly 700 people who were killed in such cases.[9] Whether drivers run red lights because they are driving recklessly or are just in a hurry, it is dangerous behavior. To help raise awareness about the dangers of running red lights, the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) is conducting National Stop on Red Week this August.[10] Stop on Red Week will work towards raising awareness of the problem and the many collisions that are caused by it.[11]

Ten Reasons to Stop on Red:[12]

  1. Running a red light is against the law.
  2. Running a red light is dangerous. An estimated 7,799 people were killed as a result of drivers who ran a red light between 2004 and 2013.
  3. The cost to society of all crashes exceeds $230 billion annually.
  4. One in three Americans know someone who has been injured or killed in a  crash caused by a driver who ran a red light.
  5. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 4 and the second leading cause of death for children age 3 and 5-14.
  6. About half of the deaths caused in crashes involving a red light are innocent pedestrians, bicyclists and occupants of other vehicles .
  7. In 2013, more than 697 people were killed and an estimated 127,000 were injured in crashes involving a red light.
  8. Motorists in urban areas are more likely to be injured in crashes involving red lights than in any other type of crash.
  9. Drivers who run red lights are more than three times as likely as other drivers to have multiple speeding convictions on their driver records.
  10. More than 36 percent of drivers continue to run red lights and take risks, despite the fact that 55 percent of the participants said it is a very serious threat and 73 percent acknowledged that running red lights is unacceptable.

All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely, and avoid collisions.  Stopping at red lights avoids collisions with other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. It saves lives.  Give yourself some extra time to get to your destination, and avoid the temptation and risks of running a red light.

About the Author: Charles Allen is a Richmond car accident lawyer with Allen & Allen. He has obtained an “AV Preeminent” rating from Martindale Hubbell and has handled personal injury cases for Virginians for more than 25 years.

[1] Most red light running also occurs in the afternoon, between 1p.m. and 5p.m.

[2] See id.


[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] See, e.g.,

[8] See id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] The NCSR has published its top ten reasons to stop at red lights.