If there had been a child at the intersection, perhaps the driver would have been a killer in addition to a red light runner. But of course, few parents today are crazy enough to let their kids ride bikes around town like we did when we were young, because increasingly, drivers seem to be ignoring the rules of the road, busy talking on the phone, or even text-messaging while they drive.
This is purely anecdotal evidence, but it seems like hardly a day goes by that I dont see someone running a red light. Not just at the tail-end of a yellow light, but full-blown red lights as other cars are entering the intersection.
Of course, running red lights is not much of a problem in America, unless you happen to be the person who is killed or seriously maimed.
Michigan began cracking down on red light runners last summer. More than 100 police agencies launched overtime patrols at intersections which have high crash rates.
Its a growing problem. According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, in 2006, more than 29% of vehicle accidents occurred at intersections, resulting in 25% of the deaths in our state and 33% of crippling injuries.
Some places are in a greater state of anarchy than others. Ive made a number of trips to Grand Rapids over the past couple of years, and it never fails to amaze me as to how many drivers you see ripping at high speeds through red lights along 28th Street -- the busiest road in Michigan.
In New York City, an estimated one million red lights are run each day; in Phoenix, the figure is estimated at 120,000.
According to a 2003 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, red light runners cause around 260,000 crashes each year.
About 850 people are killed each year by red light runners and 170,000 are injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One study showed an 18% increase in accidents involving red light runners between 1992 and 1998. Its a problem on the rise.
An outfit called the Insurance Institute found that a whopping 56% of Americans admit to running red lights. But, 96% of them also fear that theyll be struck by a car running a light at an intersection. Go figure.
We could do much to stop these deaths by installing video cameras on lights at dangerous intersections in Michigan. These cameras photograph vehicles running red lights and generate stiff traffic fines by reading the drivers license plate.
Currently, about 250 communities in 23 states have installed video cameras at dangerous intersections, and the problem of red light runners has dramatically decreased in these towns, according to USA Today.
Opponents say that the cameras are just a way for communities to raise more cash. Does anyone really have a problem with that? I wouldnt mind helping the State or my hometown with its budget problems by sticking the bill to those who play Russian Roulette with our lives by running red lights.
But more could be done. With todays microchip technology, it would be a simple matter to place sensors in every car on the road that would provide information to sensors in every traffic light. Run a light, get a ticket.
You could catch speeders and tailgaters that way too. If some yahoo is riding your bumper at 60 mph or flying 100 mph down the road, a sensor system in his car could flash a warning to “back off“ and issue a ticket if it‘s ignored.
Of course, this would also mean the government and its private contractors would be able to track your every move. That would raise a howl over invasion of privacy.
And so it goes. America has a vehicle death rate of some 50,000 lives per year, yet we do little to solve the problem. Instead, we spend trillions trying to make insurgents in Iraq behave themselves.
Be careful out there.