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A sobering statistic: one in three people personally knows someone injured or killed in a crash involving running a red light.

It’s sad, but not surprising.

Red light violations are the most common type of car crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) counts more than 2.3 million intersection-related crashes in the last reporting period.

The driver causing the collision is significantly less likely to be injured or killed than pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants of other vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

What counts as a red light violation?

Depending on your state, the law is either :

“Permissive yellow”:   there is only a red light violation if your vehicle entered the intersection after the signal turned red; or

“Restrictive yellow”:   the vehicle must be clear of the intersection before the signal turns red.

Most states follow the permissive yellow rule. Oregon follows the restrictive yellow rule.

A red light violation also includes turning right on red at intersections that expressly prohibit it, and cars that don’t come to a complete stop before turning right, even when a right turn on red is permitted.

Who is likely to run a red light?

Among drivers involved in fatal red light running crashes in 2012, the red light runners were more likely than other drivers to be:

  • Male
  • Younger drivers traveling alone
  • Less likely to wear safety belts
  • Speeding or alcohol-impaired at the time of the crash
  • Less likely to have a valid driver’s license

Running a Red Light in Oregon

Oregon allows for a right turn on red—if there is no sign prohibiting it, and if it is safe to do so under the circumstances. Those who run a red light in Oregon face a maximum fine of $300, and the state permits the use of red light cameras – devices that photograph drivers running red lights and automatically issues tickets.

Red light cameras are allowed in Oregon, but there are serious concerns surrounding their use.

There is a good public safety case for red light cameras. Aside from drivers running red lights causing intersection accidents, the very existence of red light cameras is proven to reduce left-turn car accidents.

The problem is that a high car crash rate in any given intersection could be a sign of an engineering problem that should be addressed with design adjustments, or light timing.

See The Real Problem with Red Light Cameras.

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