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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater: Survey Shows Americans Run Red Lights Without Regard for Consequences

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater: Survey Shows Americans Run Red Lights Without Regard for Consequences

Federal Highway Administration
September 23, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 23, 1999
Contacts: FHWA, Virginia Miller, (202) 366-6056
DaimlerChrysler: Sheila Gruber McLean, (248) 512-2986
Kimberly Shults, (312) 729-4286
FHWA 60-99

"National Stop on Red Week" Reminds Drivers to Stop on Red

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced the results of a survey by the Stop Red Light Running partnership revealing that 98 percent of Americans agree that red light running is dangerous, but over half admit deliberately running red lights because they are in a hurry.

The release of the survey marks the second annual "National Stop on Red Week," which runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. l. The program is a public/private partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Trauma Society (ATS) and DaimlerChrysler Corporation.

"I applaud this partnership and participating communities for their efforts to improve safety, which is President Clinton’s highest transportation priority," Secretary Slater said. "Observing red lights can prevent tragic injuries and deaths of pedestrians and motorists alike."

The research also provides new evidence that red light runners do not conform to a set demographic – the dangerous practice reaches across drivers of all age, economic groups and gender. The perpetrators are everyday people; professionals, blue-collar workers, unemployed, homemakers, parents, and young adults.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, drivers who run red lights are involved in 89,000 crashes a year, inflicting more than 80,000 injuries and nearly 1,000 deaths. In addition, from 1992 to 1998, the number of fatal crashes at intersections has increased by 16 percent, while all other types of fatal crashes have increased by only five percent.

"These numbers remind me of the state of affairs some years ago with drunk driving, where a lot of otherwise decent people knew better, but did it anyway because they didn’t realize how truly perilous it was," said ATS Executive Director Harry Teter. "So the message is clear – we’ve got to do a better job of ‘consciousness raising’ – of making people aware that running red lights simply is not acceptable."

Although, social scientists involved with the survey hypothesized that "frustration" and "road rage" would represent what most people perceived as the cause of red light running, the results proved otherwise. Only 15.8 percent of respondents cited those reasons, while nearly half (47.8) admitted to being prompted by nothing more complicated than being in a hurry.

"Red light running is not only rude, it’s life threatening," said Susan Cischke, DaimlerChrysler vice president for vehicle safety and regulatory affairs. "It has the same effect as driving under the influence in terms of probability of serious injury and death."

The survey focused on what drivers reported to be their red light running behaviors, as opposed to what they believed about red light running. Overall, 55.8 percent of the respondents admit running red lights. Those in lower technology (68.3) and blue-collar jobs (59.7), as well as unemployed (68.8), and non-parents (65 percent) reported significantly more red light running than respondents in other categories.

Professionals (59.7) and homemakers (54.8) also rank high. Parents with children less than 20 years old (65.6) are likely to run red lights more than parents of older children (40.8). Respondents with bachelors and post-graduate degrees rank at 58.4 and 56 percent respectively.

The survey also found that a majority of drivers (80.5) were more frustrated with discourtesy on the roads than they were with any other traffic problem, including congestion.

The poll was conducted by the Social Science Research Center at Old Dominion University and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. It queried 880 licensed drivers ages 18 and older on behalf of the Stop Red Light Running program.

This year’s National Stop on Red Week is "A Call to Action" to encourage more traffic safety advocates, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, law makers and others, to help raise awareness about the danger of running red lights.

Communities across the country are raising awareness of red light running through press conferences, increased enforcement, and distribution of educational materials and other activities. The Stop Red Light Running program provides those interested in promoting highway safety with step-by-step guides for program development and grants for local implementation. Additionally, a toll-free number (877-STOP-555) and a Web site (www.fhwa.dot.gov/stoprlr) are available for further information.

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