We’re killing more people because more people are ignoring traffic signals

We’ve charted the ominous increase in road deaths in the past several years, and now there’s a new bit of evidence of just how bad the problem has become. In 2017, according to an American Automobile Association analysis of NHTSA data reported by the Los Angeles Times, we hit a new high for the number of people killed by cars running red lights.

In 2017, the latest figures available, 939 people were killed by vehicles blowing through red lights, according to a AAA study of government crash data. .  . . AAA isn’t sure why the numbers are on the rise or why they have increased at a far higher rate than overall U.S. roadway deaths. Since 2012 the number of highway fatalities rose 10%, far short of the 28% increase in red-light running deaths.

There are likely many causes for the increase in fatalities.  Some of it sure has to do with the increase in driving, prompted by cheaper fuel.

Red-light running is also likely another indication of the growing problem of distracted driving. Drivers who are texting or distracted by in-cabin technology are more likely to miss a red light.

It also has to be mentioned that our efforts to use “smart” technology to improve compliance with traffic laws is woeful. Traffic engineers invest untold millions in efforts to automate traffic lights to provide motorists with a green wave, but spend little effort to promote greater compliance with red lights and speed limits.  For example, despite its official policy of trying to achieve Vision Zero, for example, the City of Portland has just eight fixed speed cameras.  Several states, including Texas have banned automated red-light cameras. Automated traffic enforcement is a technology that’s been shown to reduce speeding and red-light running and save lives.

We’re all enamored of the prospects of technology to make life better, but in one of the few instances in which we have a proven technology that’s been shown to save lives, we’ve limited or actually prohibited its deployment, with predictable results, in the form of an increasing death toll.