Running Red Lights – A Dangerous Habit

The prohibition against running a red light may seem obvious. It is dangerous. However, many people do it.

Their reasons are varied.

Some are in a hurry. Some enter the intersection just as the light is turning, thinking they can get through the intersection before the light turns red.

Others have been patiently waiting for the car in front of them to turn left. The car turns and the light turns red before the driver can clear the intersection. Still others, distracted by something else, look up too late and realize that they just ran a red light.

For some risk takers, running a red light is a game to be played when they think no other cars are likely to enter the intersection.

Others never see that the light has turned red.

No matter the reason, running red lights is a common cause of car accidents.

California Law Prohibits Running a Red Light

California Vehicle Code 21453(a) requires that a driver stop at a red light and not proceed through an intersection until the light changes. A driver facing a red light may make a left- or right-hand turn from a one-way street onto a one-way street while the light is red as long as it is safe to do so and as long as there is no sign posted that prohibits a turn on a red light.

This means that a driver must stop at the designated line if there is one. This law also prohibits the “rolling stop” or “California stop” as it is sometimes called. Although this is often more of an issue with stops at stop signs, some drivers “roll through” a red light.

In California, you can enter an intersection on a yellow light without violating the statute. However, this becomes a dangerous practice as other drivers may enter the intersection without waiting for a driver to clear the intersection. As a result, many municipalities are now building in a delay in their light sequencing between a red light in one direction and a green light in the other.

Fines and Points For Running a Red Light in CA

Failing to stop at a read light is an expensive ticket in California. The base ticket amount is $100, but penalties and enforcement charges can quickly add up, making the cost of running a red light closer to $500. In addition, running a red light is a moving violation and adds a point to a person’s driver’s record.

More and more cities are now using automated enforcement camera systems to record license plates of those drivers to fail to stop. Citations are mailed to the registered owner.  This makes it more difficult to get away with running red lights.

Dangers of Running a Red Light

For all those drivers who see running red lights as a type of sport, for those distracted drivers who fail to look up, for those drivers in a hurry, the cost of the citation can be a painful reminder of their responsibilities to others while driving.

For the unfortunate, accidents happen. These accidents can be serious. Vehicle manufacturers build in extra protection in the front and rear of most cars to protect drivers and passengers in case of an accident.

Side panels usually lack that added protection. While the door and window offer some protection in a “T-bone” accident, the protection is minimal. The risk of serious injury and death is much greater in this type of accident.

Accident severity depends in large part on the speed of the vehicles and the weight of the vehicles. Drivers in a hurry to get through the light tend to speed up causing more severe accidents. The lighter the vehicle the more impact energy is absorbed by the passengers rather than by the vehicle itself. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has stated that cited “T-bone” accidents are the second-most deadly type of collision in the U.S.

Side airbags in a car can help. But even side airbags cannot create safety in a “T-bone” accident. There is simply too little car between an occupant and the vehicle that hits that occupant.

Red Light Runners Can Cause Serious Accidents and Catastrophic Injuries

Some vehicles include added side impact protection systems in their newer models, but many cars on the road lack that added impact protection leaving drivers and passengers vulnerable. Injuries from broadside collisions can include:

Traumatic brain injuries, closed head injuries, and concussions are common in this type of accident. They can result from an occupant hitting his or her head against any surface within the vehicle. A diffuse axonal injury is one of the most serious types of brain injuries. It is a tearing of the long fibers that attach the brain to the skull. This injury, like shaken baby syndrome, can result in coma and death.

Broken bones are also common. This is almost always a point of impact injury. Hands, arms, legs, ribs, and sternum are all typical points of impact on the body. These injuries may require surgical intervention.

Neck and back injuries are very common. This includes soft tissue injuries, but it also includes spinal injuries such as severed spinal cord injuries and disk rupture.

Any injured victim in a “T-bone” accident resulting from a red-light violation should make sure and contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Liability is often clear in these cases. Because injuries are often severe, an attorney can help guide an injured victim through the claims process. These injuries often require continued care, sometimes over a protracted period of time. These costs must be included in any settlement.

When the accident is severe or death occurs, the culpable person may be subject to criminal charges of reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter. An experienced personal injury attorney can work with the prosecuting attorney to ensure compensation to the victim and that the culpable person be held responsible for their actions.

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