AAA: Red light fatalities reach 10-year high across nation

It’s a split-second choice that could forever impact the lives of the driver, their passengers and other cars on the road: running a red light. And a new report by AAA claims that it’s becoming a deadly epidemic.

Red light deaths have hit a 10-year high, with 939 fatalities in 2017 alone — and 20 of those deaths taking place in the Garden State. The 2008-to-2017 period saw about 7,800 fatalities in total and countless more non-fatal crashes.

Shani Jarvis, assistant manager of public affairs for AAA Northeast, said some red light crashes are caused by distractions. But the nonprofit found that many are the result of intentional speeding.

Traffic officers face a challenge in patrolling intersections and keeping an eye out for offenders, since drivers are unlikely to run a red light when a police car is present. But Lt. Robert Simpson of the Wayne Police Department made it clear that when drivers are caught, there are consequences.

“A lot of times people are honest, they’re running late for work,” he said. “Lot of times people don’t even know, and that is when education through enforcement comes into play. We issue summons, sometimes we issue warnings, and it’s to let people know how they’re driving.”

As for staying safe on the road, the motor-club association recommends drivers use good judgment by monitoring how long a light has been green, tap the brake a few times before fully stopping and drive defensively. Those tips are particularly important to keep in mind as children return to school, according to AAA.

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