The Worst Holiday Weekend for Red-Light Running Is Here

Memorial Day weekend is a bad time to drive overall. 

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The summer holidays are beginning, and so is the worst time of year for red-light running.

According to a report released by the National Coalition for Safer Roads, an advocacy group, Memorial Day weekend is the worst U.S. holiday period for red-light running, followed closely by the Fourth of July and Labor Day. The worst single day for running red lights is August 30th.

The data comes from 2,216 red-light safety cameras in 20 states, covering the calendar year 2013. Here are some of the report’s highlights:

  • The 2,216 cameras analyzed recorded a total of 3,560,724 violations. That’s an average of 1,607 per camera per year.
  • On an average day there were 9,705 violations recorded.
  • The highest percentage of violations occurred during afternoon hours, which accounted for 30 percent of the total.
  • Fridays were the worst day of the week, representing 16 percent of the total. Sundays had the fewest violations, with 12.34 percent.

The numbers are inherently limited in scope by the fact that they cover only certain areas in certain states. In many parts of the country, red-light cameras have been blocked or removed because of opposition from residents who contend they are merely revenue-generating devices.

For people who have been involved in crashes resulting from red-light running – and for the loved ones of those who are killed that way – the safety issue is all too real. There are a lot of such people. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 676 red-light running fatalities across the United States. Approximately 165,000 people are injured each year in red-light running crashes. More than half the people affected are not the ones running the light – they’re occupants of vehicles or pedestrians struck by the drivers who blow through the signal.

One of the people to lose a loved one to such a crash was National Coalition for Safer Roads president Melissa Wandall, whose husband died in a red-light crash in 2003 when she was nine months pregnant with their daughter.

Resistance to red-light cameras remains strong, with some states, such as Mississippi, going so far as to ban them. The evidence for their efficacy as a prevention tool has been hotly debated for years.

The FHWA has found that 97 percent of drivers surveyed feel that other drivers running red lights are “a major safety threat,” while one in three say they know someone who has been killed or injured in a red-light crash.

We seem to be able to agree that people running reds – at least other people – are a real menace to life and limb, even if we can’t agree on how to protect ourselves from that threat. Another thing that's clear: as the summer kicks off, high season for the potentially deadly offense has arrived.

Top image: SARIN KUNTHONG / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

  • Sarah Goodyear has written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog. She lives in Brooklyn.