Red Light… Really?

Over the last week in this part of Utah, there have been at least five serious accidents reported (and there may have been more that didn’t appear in the local media) caused by someone running a red light, with an impact on not only two vehicles, but others as well. This past week, there was “only” one fatality, but there easily could have been more.

In the same period, I’ve also seen, while driving, three other instances where someone either ran a red light or entered the intersection as the light turned red… and what I’ve seen has to understate the frequency, because I doubt I average even a half hour a day driving. Fortunately, in those three cases, no accident ensued.

I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but such collisions are definitely becoming more frequent, and not just in Utah, I suspect.

Anger may well be one of the causes behind some of these accidents or near accidents, given that we’re also seeing more and more incidents of road rage.

And arrogance is definitely a factor, the idea that the driver is more important than anyone else, which was certainly the case in one accident here in Cedar City, where the driver was driving on an expired and revoked license.

But the largest factor, I’m convinced, is that too many people are trying to do too many things too quickly and aren’t paying enough attention to the road. Multitasking is often an excellent way to screw up all those activities/chores/etc., that you’re trying to do at the same time, and it’s especially dangerous when driving… and even more dangerous when the driver is late and trying to catch up.

All of which beg the question – why are so many people so angry, so arrogant, so hurried, and so distracted while driving at excessive speeds a vehicle that can instantly become a killing machine? And so blind or indifferent to how deadly their vehicle can be?

It’s almost as if they’re saying, “A red light, that doesn’t really mean anything.”

9 thoughts on “Red Light… Really?”

  1. Wren Jackson says:

    It’s also a matter of people not understanding a no brain “multitask” vs actually trying to do two things.

    I have music going and am singing on my work commute. But it’s songs I know and that don’t stress my voice or require effort on vocals. A way to warm up, not practicing new material.

    Similarly I do tend to have a show or movie in the background while I work. But never something new that will actually grab my attention.

    Even then I do these things due to being neuro- divergent. The lack of these things makes it harder to stay focused on task.

    Going to go on limb and guess most don’t have either the deliberate structure or the actual need to do these things.

    1. Tom says:

      I am curious: do you like watching TV shows such as “Astrid” or “Professor T” or are they upsetting?

      I like the concept of neurotypical and neurodivergent but I would have thought neurodivergents would not have liked your definition of “multitask”.

      I agree that such a definition of multitask should not be a cause of driving through red lights. However I submit that this is a simplification of how our brains work; for example ageing amplifies the inattention/attention split in our conscious/subconscious mind.

      1. Wren Jackson says:

        Can’t say I’ve watched either so honestly can’t give assessments there.

        Not sure what the issue would be with the definition. Multitasking is generally defined as doing more than one task at a time. The logical path is still focused on one task at a time but keeping a secondary awareness of what’s going on on other tasks.

        I am not actively focused on warming my voice, I am focused on the road.

        Where as if I were dictating an email or carrying on a detailed conversation I am trying to divide my focus which risks error.

  2. Bill says:

    I always find it is unproductive to look for rational reasons for irrational behavior. Running a red light is irrational. Instead, we should ask why people are more prone to irrational behavior. Many of the blogs here have pointed to this. Inflation is up. The left/right/liberal/conservative conflict is upsetting people and fueling insanity. The very nature of the country is changing and that scares some people, especially those who will lose control. The people losing control are doing anything they can to retain control. And finally, we have very narcissistic people in high level positions of our government stirring up trouble.
    More than half the population of the US prefers background noise to silence. This isn’t just neuro-divergent, but extroverts as defined by Myers-Briggs. Extroverts find being with people or music or background TV energizing while being alone is draining. Introverts are the opposite and prefer silence. Of course, not everyone is the same or wants background noise or silence all the time.

    1. Lourain says:

      Extreme introvert here. I use background music to drown out distractions. An hour’s playlist can go by without consciously hearing a single note.
      Perhaps you shouldn’t generalize so much. Blaming red-light running on our political divisions is reaching rather far. Blaming it on the people in high-level positions is an even greater reach.
      Multi-tasking as a cause of red-light running makes more sense.

  3. KTL says:


    I’m not so sure that I’d put the blame only on the current environment. I’d also suggest that very little education regarding consequences of accidents is being used to educate new and existing drivers. To that end, it was quite typical to teach students in the 60s and 70s (me for instance) that wreckless driving can produce horrific outcomes. Movies were shown that illustrated graphic outcomes that would deliberately aim to shock the drivers ed students. Similarly at an even younger age we were shown film loops regarding the dangers in handling fireworks and blasting caps (I have no idea why the blasting caps issue was included).

    While we were living abroad in Ireland between 2009 and 2012, public commercials were shown that also graphically and shockingly portrayed the dangers for road users from inattentive behavior (drivers and pedestrians). These media, I assume, are meant to shock and therefore cause the user to think about their behaviors before they engage in them.

    In a similar vein I’ve mentioned on this blog that the use of graphic public service announcements that would illustrate the destruction that bullets from a semi-automatic weapon cause to the human body might shift the public’s perception on that issue.

    There are good uses of media other than words to persuade and alter the behaviors of the public. We ought to be using them for more than selling products.

  4. Hanneke says:

    A shocking percentage of drivers will use their mobile phone while driving, not just as a phone or map app, but to read and write things, or even watch videos – all things that take their attention away from the road.
    Like drunk driving, there needs to be a very hard-hitting and sustained campaign to make distracted driving socially unacceptable.
    It would be even better if lawmakers could force the implementation of existing solutions to stop a mobile phone from being used in the driver’s seat while the car is moving. It can be retrofitted in existing cars too. But I fear the political climate in the USA has moved away from forcing car manufacturers to implement measures that would make people safer, so the kind of awareness campaign that KTL mentions is probably the best you can hope for.

    More options:
    – Speed cameras and red light cameras. Speed kills, as does running red lights – run a campaign hammering that home when you introduce those cameras, pre-empt media calling it a cash cow meant to milk the drivers: if you don’t break the law you won’t have to pay, and if you do break the law you endanger the lives of other road users and should be made to pay.
    – Better driving instruction, coupled with making it harder to get a driver’s licence.
    – Raising the minimum age for getting one’s driving license and/or making them provisional for teenagers, easily revoked for reckless driving.
    – Police enforcement of the ban on holding and using mobile phones while at the wheel, through cameras mounted on poles, on any over-the-road gantries, or by policemen taking pictures of offenders & licence plates from higher vantage points, e.g.a seat on a bus, and wiring ahead to a colleague to stop that car, or sending the fines in the mail.
    – Bigger consequences for driving infractions: higher fines, fines proportional to one’s income, mandatory loss of licence and driving ban after some infractions, impounding cars of dangerous drivers.
    – No more allowing “right turn on red” which is one of the most dangerous moves to make in a car for any vulnerable road users outside that car, as well as training drivers that they can ignore red lights in some circumstances.
    – Redesigning intersections to make them safer, and roads to slow down and smooth out traffic flow. Well-designed roundabouts can be much safer, and create a smoother-flowing traffic, than many signalised intersections on overly wide roads that encourage speeding. This is the slowest and most costly solution, and US traffic engineers have not made the best ways of doing this into their standard practice, so it’s not likely to happen any time soon in your town. Still, it’s the one way to create safety that isn’t dependent on all the drivers behaving well all of the time.

  5. Postagoras says:

    One big part of the problem is that red light cameras and speed cameras can’t assess points on someone’s driver’s license. So if you’re well-off, you can easily pay the fine and continue speeding and running red lights.
    New York City is talking about graduated fines based on income. An interesting idea.

  6. R. Hamilton says:

    Is texting while driving implicated? That’s been a problem in many areas, perhaps one to become significant more slowly in supposedly quiet places.

    Another possibility is a large influx of those recent to the area, who may be making unreasonable assumptions. A contractor living in upstate NY traveled to central Maryland (since he was the expert on a particular problem), and had to first get his ignition lock replaced, since in his small town he’d never taken the key out and it was stuck; and 2nd, had an accident on the way, because the combative traffic weaving in and out near bumper to bumper 20+ MPH over the speed limit on freeways was far outside his regular experience. That may not be a good example, but context does affect people.

    The NYC / DC corridor (at least) is dominated by those who act as if they are under pressure to be first no matter who they have to run off the road. 50 miles east or west of there is very different, and southwest Pennsylvania shocked me by living up to a description heard in conversation with a late-night cashier that lived in Pittsburgh once: people actually take turns merging, and may give an extra second at the light to others with out of state licenses, before honking. In general, my experience is that most other places, esp. west of the Mississippi other than tourist traps like Las Vegas and some big cities, drivers may be stupid but they’re less often near vicious.

    Most frightening to me is the number of tractor trailer drivers I see weaving in (sometimes out of) their lane; sometimes even without windy weather. That suggests that they’re either under trained, over tired, or otherwise impaired. And that some companies are hiring the cheapest warm body having minimum required paperwork, and probably not verifying that.

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