In 2013, there were more than 30,000 fatal motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. alone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For that year, the national motor vehicle crash death rate was 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
On-the-road safety is incredibly important. From minor fender-benders requiring a trip to the nearest auto repair shop to serious accidents, no driver wants to end up in a crash. However, it's our own driving behavior that often puts us in harm's way.
One of the biggest driving errors is running a red light. Recently, the National Coalition for Safer Roads created an interactive map to highlight the risk of red-light running, including the number of fatalities in the U.S. between 2004 and 2013.
"Red-light running fatalities are a serious concern in the U.S."
Certain cities present greater risk
In the map, the NCSR plotted a significant number of fatalities caused by a red-light running across the country, down to the specific street and intersection.
"The ultimate goal is to honor the lives lost and illustrate the danger of red-light running," explained NCSR president Melissa Wandall. "These dots represent a life cut too short, family and friends left to soon, and the harsh reality that red-light running can affect anyone on the roadways if more action isn't taken to prevent reckless driving."
The NCSR used the data to determine which cities were the most at-risk for red-light running. At No. 1 was Houston, followed by Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Also on the list were Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, Tucson and Denver.
Naturally, major metropolitan areas are more likely to have red-light related fatalities. Even so, car accidents can happen at any time in any location, and drivers have to be responsible and alert to be safe on the roads.
Major holidays increase risk
Furthermore, the NCSR data showed that major driving holidays also increased the odds of a serious accident from running a red light.
According to the research, Memorial Day 2014 saw 37,800 red-light violations. The Fourth of July had 34,522 incidents, while Labor Day had 35,118. Over all, it was most dangerous around weekends, with the peak time on Friday afternoon between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. States like Florida, with 8,529 incidents on Memorial Day alone; and New York, with 5,788 accidents, were near the top on individual holidays.
The key issue here is sheer volume. A large number of drivers are on the roads during these peak times, and that increases risk. So too does population, with states like New York and Florida already having a significant number of drivers.
"Drivers can take control to improve road safety."
What can be done?
From a individual perspective, the best course of action is to be safe on the roads.
It is easy to drive recklessly from time to time, whether than means exceeding the speed limit, driving distracted or tailgating the vehicle in front. Running red lights can fall under the same category. Often, it is simply a case of a driver in a rush. And that basic decision can have widespread consequences.
In order to be safer on the road, drivers should:
- Put away cellphones
- Drive only when rested
- Wear seatbelts
- Pay attention to lights and traffic signs
While these are simple tips, they are too often overlooked by complacent drivers. Bad habits can be hard to break, but it is much safer to drive responsibly on the road. And, the NCSR's data showing that there were 7,799 red-light fatalities in the U.S. between 2004 and 2013 is evidence of that.