‘Making a reckless choice:’ Wisconsin red light running deaths hit 10-year high

MILWAUKEE -- AAA is partnering with local leaders in Milwaukee to support the “Take it EZ” campaign to combat reckless driving behaviors, such as red-light running, by purchasing and distributing vehicle magnets and stickers at their local offices, as well as at community events with the help of the Milwaukee Safety and Civic Commission and Milwaukee Police Department.

FOX6 News cameras were rolling on Thursday, Aug. 29 -- catching drivers in the area of 27th and Center; one after another running red lights.

The intersection is one of the worst in the City of Milwaukee for drivers breaking the law, according to a new study.

"This is a call to action throughout the community of Milwaukee, from private businesses to foundations to individuals," said Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan.

"Our plan during these initiatives is not to issue citations, it's to change behavior," said Assistant Chief Michael Brunson, Milwaukee Police Department.

Mayor Barrett

According to data analysis performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than two people are killed every day on U.S. roads by impatient and reckless drivers running red lights.

The most recent crash data available shows 939 people were killed in red light running crashes in 2017 -- a 10-year high and a 22% increase over the average from 2008-2016. In Wisconsin, there were 22 such fatalities in 2017, a 150% increase over the 2008-2016 average.

Ald. Bob Donovan

“Drivers who decide to run a red light when they could have stopped safely are making a reckless choice that puts other road users in danger,” said Nick Jarmusz, Midwest director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The data show that red light running continues to be a traffic safety challenge. All road safety stakeholders must work together to change behavior and identify effective countermeasures.”

According to the AAA Foundation’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index, 85% of drivers view red light running as very dangerous, yet nearly one in three say they blew through a red light within the past 30 days when they could have stopped safely. More than -two in five drivers also say it is unlikely they’ll be stopped by police for running a red light. Nevertheless, it’s against the law and if a driver is involved in a deadly crash, it could send them to jail.

"The fact that we're talking about deaths from people running red lights, underscores the seriousness of this issue," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Near 27th and Center, those in the area have seen too many accidents, injuries and even death because of the problem.

"There is so many youth around here, you don't want anything fatal or anything bad to happen just because people don't want to follow the rules," said Gerarl Laymond, who lives in the area.

The fine for running a red light is $98.80.

According to a press release, Operation Take it EZ Milwaukee is a 90-day pilot project leveraging Milwaukee Police resources and private donations to target reckless driving at four Milwaukee intersections: N. 60th St. and W. Capitol Dr.; N. 27th St. and W. Center St./W. Fond du Lac Ave.; S. Cesar Chavez Dr. and W. Greenfield Ave./W. Muskego Ave.; and S. 35th St. and W. National Ave.

The initiative includes increased monitoring by Milwaukee police, a public information campaign and strong involvement by members of the community, including neighborhood groups, associations and youth organizations.

Changes in driver behavior are also critical to reducing the number of red light running crashes on U.S. roads.

To prevent red light crashes, AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Prepare to Stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use Good Judgement: Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Tap the Brake: Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive Defensively: Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

Pedestrians and cyclists should also stay safe when traveling near intersections. AAA recommends:

  • Wait: Give yourself a few seconds to make sure all cars have come to a complete stop before moving through the intersection.
  • Stay Alert and Listen: Don't take chances and don't wear headphones. Watch what is going on and give your full attention to the environment around you.
  • Be Visible: Stay in well-lit areas, especially when crossing the street.
  • Make Eye Contact: Look at drivers in stopped vehicles to ensure they see you before crossing the road in front of them.
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