When Right on Red Goes Wrong

Car Accidents Caused by running Red Lights

Running a red light- it is a decision that people usually make in a split second, and people take the risk hoping that the decision will result in a favorable outcome while knowing deep inside that there is at least a small chance it could result in a disastrous crash. This is a habit that some people may deem as harmless, but if it is not curtailed, it can worsen causing people to drive even more recklessly in the future. Usually, people justify this by saying that it is necessary as it saves them time on a busy commute or when they have a jam-packed schedule, but the reality is that running red lights is a dangerous habit that is sometimes the culprit in lethal car accidents throughout the United States.

Running Red Lights Qualifies as Aggressive Driving in Florida

According to the Florida Department of Transportation website, aggressive driving occurs when a driver has performed two or more of the below actions:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to yield to the right-of-way
  • Improperly or unsafely changing lanes
  • Passing improperly
  • Following too closely
  • Failing to obey traffic control devices (stop signs, yield signs, traffic signals, etc.)

Red-Light Crash Statistics Nationally and in Florida

A recent article by Forbes Magazine states that in 2016, over 800 people lost their lives in the United States from accidents related to running a red light; this is 17% higher than the amount of people who lost their lives in 2012 due to running a red light.  A hot topic in debate amongst lawmakers is whether or not red-light cameras hurt or help this problem.

The same Forbes article states that the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, David Harkey, advises that turning off red light cameras resulted in more crashes, injuries, and deaths, according to research. He is a classic proponent of the lights, believing that the fear of receiving a camera citation is one reason that people will drive more safely through intersections.

On the flip side, a 2017 article from Sun-Sentinel states that a survey was conducted across 148 intersections in 28 cities and counties across Florida, and this survey revealed that total crashes were up 10.14 since the red-light cameras had been installed, per a report from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.  In particular, the report revealed that rear-end collisions and angle crashes increased, crashes involving injuries increased, and fatalities doubled, all of which occurred after the cameras had been installed. The article does not list the exact reasons for the increase in crashes since the red lights being installed, as the issue is certainly complex and multi-faceted.

How to Properly & Legally Handle Red Lights

An article by Traffic School Online discusses the importance of recognizing the “dilemma zone”, knowing the yellow light laws of your state, controlling your speed in order to avoid running a red light, making sure not to ever drive while drowsy or distracted.

  • The dilemma zone is known as the area that is about 2.5 to 5.5 seconds away from the stop line, and there is a probability of 10 to 90 percent of drivers stopping in this area.  This is the zone people reach and think: do I speed up to make the light, or do I stop somewhat abruptly for the light and risk being rear-ended?
  • Yellow light laws vary by state. In Florida, people can enter an intersection when the light is yellow, and they may even be in the intersection when the light is red, so long as their tires crossed over the line when the light was still yellow.  However, just because this is legal, doesn’t mean you have to follow it; if you ever feel uncomfortable crossing when the light is yellow, always veer on the safe side. Likewise, be sure to always keep a lookout for other vehicles from other intersections that may also be trying to hurry through an intersection at the last minute.
  • The length of yellow lights and red lights are set based on the speed that the vehicles on the road are expected to travel along with the calculated safe stopping distance they will need while traveling at that speed. cIf an individual is driving faster than the recommended speed limit, then they will need a longer stopping distance, and the yellow light may not provide enough time for the individual to come to a safe stop before the light turns red.
  • Don’t ever drive while drowsy or distracted.  It only takes moments for lights to change, and if you are not paying attention, you could be finishing up a text message as a light changes from green to red and not even notice.  If you must use your phone when you are driving, try to do so when you are at a complete stop, and opt to call people versus texting.

Accidents Caused by Running Red Lights

T-Bone Accidents

One of the most common types of accidents that are caused by the running of red lights is the t-bone accident. This type of accident occurs when one vehicle traveling on a path perpendicular to another ends up colliding with it from the side. This usually happens because one car runs a red light and hit by another car that has the right of way and is not expecting a vehicle to make its way into its path. These accidents can be especially dangerous since the car that is being broadsided is typically hit on the driver’s side so inflicting massive trauma on the operator of the vehicle.

Rear-End Accidents

When people run red lights, there is a chance that they can end up rear-ending another car. A rear-end accident is when the front of one vehicle slams into the rear end of a vehicle in front of them. As a person runs a red light, they can slam into the back of a slower-moving car that is making a left turn with the right of way into the lane they are on.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Collisions

Running a red light can put those that are traveling via bicycle or on foot in danger. These people may be attempting to cross the street expecting the safety of the crosswalk and traffic lights to protect them only to have someone disobeying these traffic signals cause an accident. Pedestrians and bicyclists do not have the protection of a car’s chassis when an accident occurs. It is usually just their bodies and the impact of a motor vehicle that can inflict brutal injuries.

Legal Help for Victims of Red-Light Crashes

If you have been involved in an accident with a driver who ran a red light, you need to consult with an experienced attorney who knows how the full breadth of traffic infraction laws come into play with auto claims.  The attorneys at The Eberst Law Firm have handled tens of thousands of auto cases and are prepared to handle and understand the complexities of your auto accident. Contact Eberst Law at 772-225-4900 or contact us online.



About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at The Eberst Law Firm who have extensive experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida. This article was also extensively researched to ensure that all information is accurate and up to date. If you want to know more about the author of this page, view our attorney bios here.






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Attorney Jon Eberst

Attorney Jon Eberst

Jonathan Eberst, the driving force behind The Eberst Law Firm, is known in his community and across Florida for knowledge and skill in the personal injury industry. Respected for his friendly and help attitude, he has consistently helped thousands of clients, ensuring their rights are upheld. Jon's profound expertise makes him a sought-after voice in the legal community, both online and in-person.

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