Running a Red Light: What You Should Know

Including tips for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Traffic lights have been telling us when to stop since the first gas-powered red and green lights went up in London in 1868. Unfortunately, the transition from horse-drawn carriages to high-tech cars hasn’t eliminated intersection dangers. And the problem appears to be getting worse.

The latest data shows that 2017 had the most red light-running crash deaths in a decade, up 28% since 2012. So remember to avoid distractions and be alert for other drivers who might miss—or ignore—the red lights.

Red Light, Green Light


Sources: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Running a red light: What you can do to prevent crashes

Tips for drivers

Prepare to stop: As you approach an intersection, lift your foot off the accelerator and position your foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.

Use good judgment: Monitor the light to see if it has been green for a long time. If it has, it’s more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.

Tap the brake: As you approach a red or yellow light, tap your brakes a few times before fully applying them. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.

Drive defensively: When you’re stopped at an intersection and the light turns green, look both ways before proceeding so you can spot any driver running a red light.

Tips for pedestrians and bicyclists

Wait: Give yourself a few seconds before entering the intersection to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop.

Make eye contact: Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.

Stay alert and listen: Don’t take chances and don’t wear headphones—give your full attention to what’s around you so you can better spot any drivers running a red light.

Be visible: Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.

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