Running a red light has been viewed subjectively by many drivers in the United States because people have a difficult time knowing what exactly running a red light is. Some people believe running a light means going through any red light regardless of how long it has been red. Other people believe a few cars should be allowed to pass through a red light because they would not have enough stopping distance to stop before entering the intersection.
The reality is whatever choice made by any driver when entering an intersection will have some sort of effect on those around them. For example, vehicles waiting for the green light may delay accelerating and proceeding forward if a vehicle appears to enter the intersection when their light is red. Additionally, if a vehicle slows down on yellow, the vehicles behind it will slow down.
In 2009 the US Department of Transportation Federal Highways Administration conducted a study and concluded there is no simple explanation as to why people run red lights. They also categorized those that ran a red light as intentional and unintentional. But, for whatever reason a driver runs a red light, its outcome can have negative results. The outcome and results can vary from traffic citations, major or minor collisions, major or minors increase, affect the cost insurance rates, or points on a driving record.
The study found that during 2000 thru 2007 the average number of fatalities numbered about 916 per year. Males were most likely to run red lights and other factors mentioned in the study also conclude that distractions contribute to the cause. Distractions include other; passengers, eating, driving while being drowsy, electronic devices… the list goes on. Even more disturbing, drivers that run red lights are more likely to speed, not wear a seat belt, and have a bad driving record.
Safety should always be the main factor when driving. That is why drivers must understand what traffic lights really mean. The Texas Driver Handbook simply makes the statement that on a red light you must stop before entering an intersection or crosswalk. Additionally, they add that a right turn can be executed once a complete stop has been made and the path is clear. Also take note that not all intersections allow for a right turn on a stop light, it may be prohibited. Always observe the traffic signs and signals for a clear understanding.
Yellow lights mean drivers should slow down. Again, the Texas Driver Handbook book defines a yellow signal as “If a driver can stop before entering the intersection they should do so, but if the driver does not have enough distance to stop before entering the roadway they should slowly proceed through with caution. If a driver legally enters the intersection on yellow they may legally leave the intersection even if the light turns red as long as they were able to clear the entire intersection.”
Green lights are designed to let a driver know to proceed with caution; however, green does not mean, “go.” It means, “go with caution.” If cars are blocking your path or a pedestrian is in the way drivers must only proceed if they can safely navigate around them without a collision. Also drivers must not accelerate too quickly that they break the designated speed limit.
The green light does necessarily mean drivers automatically have the right of way because drivers opposite the intersection may run their red light. One safety measure drivers should use at green lights is to look both ways before proceeding.
The traffic light system seems like a simple light changing mechanism but the thought process behind it is very complex. That is why drivers should realize what traffic lights really mean before they get behind the wheel of an automobile. This information is brought to you by Comedy Driving, Inc. Comedy Driving has 5 Houston area locations and an online defensive driving course and is approved by the Texas Education Agency for dismissing traffic citations.