It is rush hour in near the intersection of Missouri Avenue Northwest and North Capitol Street and cars are bumper to bumper. The rush hour period from 3:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. appears appropriately named, as the large number of anxious-looking drivers maneuver through traffic as if they are in-fact in an extreme hurry.
It’s 5:40 p.m. and the driver of a black Honda Accord tailgates and repeatedly switches lanes to “beat” the traffic and pass other cars. He finally catches a break in traffic and approaches yellow light to turn left onto Missouri Avenue. Instead taking the yellow light as an indicator to slow to a stop, the driver speeds up and breaks the law by running a red light.
The driver of the black Honda Accord was successful in running the light and avoiding both a traffic ticket and a collision; however, the driver has committed one of the primary causes of traffic accidents in North America according to the Federal Highway Administration.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2006 witnessed 171,000 crashes, 144,000 injuries, and 887 fatalities caused by red light running in the United States. Red light running is also the leading cause of all urban car accidents.
“Running red lights is super dangerous,” said Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration. “It’s not only dangerous for the motorist but it’s also dangerous for other motorists and pedestrians. It is illegal and it risks the lives of everybody on the road.”
Safe drivers and pedestrians can fall victim to the reckless driving practices of unsafe drivers.
“I feel that red lights runners are a current problem in my neighborhood” said Alyssa Armstead, resident of ward 4. “It’s a recurring irresponsible act that is not worthy of the danger it causes.”
Red light cameras have proven to be instrumental in decreasing the number of red light traffic violations and the fatalities caused by red light running according to the Federal Highway Administration.
“The law enforcement officials appreciate the assistance the cameras provide in catch those breaking the law,” said Hecox. “We have no information to say they are error proof but all the tests we run say they are very reliable.”
According to the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, red light cameras reduced red light running fatalities from 16 to 2 in Washington, D.C.
“I’m glad that they have those red light cameras,” said Jersil Blanco, resident of Northwest D.C. “It helps me feel safer when crossing the street.”
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, between August 1999 through May 2008, the automated red-light enforcement program has achieved 741,780 notices of infraction mailed, 526,766 notices of infraction paid and $46,815,591 in fines collected with 49 camera locations.
“Running a red light, instead of waiting the two minutes it takes the cycle to change, is a stupid way to go to jail,” said Hecox. “It’s also a ridiculous reason to take someone’s life.”
Ultimately, drivers are encouraged to obey traffic safety laws to reduce accidents in casualties.
“Be a responsible driver,” said Hecox. “There is no excuse for running a red light.”