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By: Frank Hinds, Executive Director

Why do drivers continue to run red lights? The variety of reason’s might surprise you, but for the most part people are speeding , distracted or simply believe they can get away with it – so why not! Small children understand that “red means stop”, yet intelligent people continue to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, ignoring responsible behavior in favor of beating a red light!

In 1999, Arizona had the dubious honor of being the worst state in the nation for red light running deaths; that same year Governor Jane Dee Hull proclaimed March to be “Red Light Running Awareness Month”. March, 2014 is once again Red Light Running Awareness Month in Arizona and our fatality ranking has improved slightly to #4.

The Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance continues to remind all drivers that the careless behavior of running a red light destroys lives, and causing a crash that kills or seriously injures another person cannot be forgiven by a driver saying “oops, I’m sorry I was distracted” or” I was in a hurry and didn’t mean to hurt anyone”. Victims and their families find little comfort in statements like these.

Changing driver behavior, in my opinion, requires a two pronged approach. Educating drivers, especially young, newly licensed drivers in the seriousness and importance of responsible driving is step one. Step two needs to drastically change the way we address the penalties imposed on those drivers who don’t get the message and continue to break the law. We can’t continue to think it’s okay to be #4 in the nation for fatalities due to red light running.

Furthermore, businesses across Arizona should be concerned about the impact traffic crashes have on their employees. Tens of thousands of innocent people survive the horrific impact of an intersection crash only to suffer permanent, incapacitating injuries. These injuries are often expensive and life-altering; requiring prolonged medical care and rehabilitation.

Families affected by red light crashes deserve to know that their loved ones are not just statistics in some annual government report. They are all someone’s child, mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent or friend. Unfortunately, those not impacted by these crashes have no idea the devastation caused by the split second decision to run the light. Frank Frassetto and Michael Allanson weren’t expecting to be killed crossing city streets; Krystal Philippi didn’t dream of a life with a traumatic brain injury; Marine GySgt Mano Patton’s loved one’s didn’t expect him to survive a tour in Iraq only to be killed on the streets of Phoenix; the family of 5 year old Sean Doss weren’t prepared for him to be paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and Jennifer Hinds had no idea her life would end a few months before high school graduation.

Arizonan’s shouldn’t need a month designated to make them aware of the consequences of red light running, but going from the worst to fourth worst in fifteen years tells me we still have a very long way to go.

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