You or someone you know are more likely to be injured from running a red light than any other type of crash. According to a recent AAA study, traffic fatalities due to running red lights are the highest they’ve been in 10 years.
KX talked to the Bismarck Police Department and some residents in the area to see how big of a problem it actually is.
“As a society, we have become a lot more impatient,” says Lieutenant Jeff Solemsaas. “People get frustrated with traffic. They get frustrated with missing red lights, so they are in a hurry and they are trying to get to their destination and trying to make time.”
The AAA report says drivers blowing through red lights killed 939 people in 2017, a 31-percent increase from 2009. And Solemsaas tells KX while there’s only been one red light fatality in our area in the past five years, the number of citations has dramatically increased.
Solemsaas says, “In 2019 so far this year we have had a total of 348 citations we have issued. Last year same time frame we had about 286, so it’s about a 22-percent increase.”
And this is something people in the community have found to be a problem as well.
“Especially if they are close calls,” says Mandan resident Desire Smith. “I have definitely had one where it was a close call. Like we could have been going just then — you were a little bit early. Sometimes they are even going to soon even before its a green light for them.”
In North Dakota, you are allowed to enter an intersection as long as the light is not red beforehand. A typical red light citation will run you just $40, which is something Solemsaas says needs to be changed in our state.
“That point that there is no deterrent effect on having a fee that’s so low,” says Solemsaas. “I use an anecdotal story that there was a guy and this was numerous years ago. He had told me, ‘I figure if I run 20 red lights and only get caught once that’s only costing me a dollar for every red light and I won’t stop for red lights — and it’s just not worth my time.'”
Mandan Resident Sergio Smith says, “People run red lights and you almost become numb to it — you almost think ‘Hey if he did it then it’s okay.'”
Solemsaas says while they can’t catch everyone that runs red lights– they do take the violation very seriously.
“We are doing enforcement on these and have conducted many special enforcements to try and get officers out and hit an intersection pretty hard today,” Solemsaas.
AAA also included some things to look out for.
- Pedestrians and cyclists should make eye contact with drivers
- Look out for “stale” green lights–those that have been green a long time are more likely to turn yellow as you approach the intersection.
- and if you are the first person at a red light– give yourself three seconds after it turns green.
Police in Bismarck and Mandan say the installation of the Blue Lights have helped with the problem.
In the past decade over 9-thousand people have died from red-light running crashes.