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How Do Red-Light Accidents Happen?

Posted on June 6, 2018
Car accidents occur through many common occurrences – the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration says that driver error is the largest cause of car accidents by a significant margin. Driver error can encompass a wide variety of scenarios, from distracted driving to speeding. It also contributes to dangerous and sometimes fatal accidents like those that often occur at red lights.

Laws Affecting Red-Light Accidents

Several state laws may influence accidents at red lights. These laws include:
  • Right on red. If there is no designation otherwise, Texas law allows drivers to make a right turn at a red light. However, it’s imperative that drivers use caution and follow rules regarding the right of way.
  • Left on red. In Texas, drivers might be able to turn left onto a one-way street after stopping and assuring a safe distance before turning.
  • Yellow light. At an intersection, the presence of a yellow light means a driver should use caution – a driver can be in the middle of an intersection while it’s yellow but not while it’s red.
Despite these clear signals of what to do at a red light, negligence still occurs; drivers break these traffic laws or fail to notice changes, leading to injury-causing accidents. Some of the most common causes of red-light accidents include:
  • A driver speeds up to make a light. Unfortunately, some people see a yellow light as a challenge and go faster to make it through rather than slowing down. This puts them in the middle of an intersection as a light turns red – or worse, passing through it after the light turns. Cars accelerating on the other side of the intersection can create a major crash.
  • On the other hand, some drivers don’t think they can make the light and slam on their brakes while traveling at high speeds. This also can put them in the middle of the intersection when the other signal turns green; stopping too abruptly can cause problems of its own.
  • Distracted driving behaviors also contribute to red-light accidents. Some drivers simply do not pay attention to their surroundings and look up to find the light red, unable to stop or maneuver away to prevent a serious crash.
  • Speeding makes it more likely that a red-light accident will occur, as drivers cannot react to their environments quickly enough.
  • Last, poor weather conditions can contribute to red-light accidents, as drivers cannot see the signal. In Texas, heavy rain, fog, and high winds can all impact visibility. Even the blinding sun can make it difficult to see if a light is red or green.

Common Injuries in Red-Light Accidents

Unfortunately, red-light accidents can lead to serious and debilitating injuries. Some of the most common include:
  • Broken bones. The force of the impact can lead to fractures of the legs, arms, or ribs. If a driver’s vehicle does not have side air bags, these injuries may be more severe.
  • This soft tissue injury is most common in rear-end accidents and may occur when a driver hits the vehicle in front of him or her when slamming on the brakes at a red light.
  • Brain and spinal cord injuries. In serious cases, red-light accidents can lead to debilitating trauma to the brain and spinal cord. These injuries may create side effects that last a lifetime.
Drivers should use extra caution at red lights by allowing plenty of time for passing vehicles and following posted speed limits and signage. Unfortunately, no one can account for the actions of others on the road. Even if a driver uses an abundance of caution at intersections, he or she may be vulnerable to red-light accidents.