Red Light Enforcement Campaign Aims to Change Behaviors

Baihly Warfield
September 20, 2017 10:20 PM

Driving through an intersection with a green light is so second nature, most people don't even think about it. But what happens when another driver blows through a red? 

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According to St. Louis County traffic engineers and the Toward Zero Deaths campaign, most serious crashes in the Duluth, Hermantown and Proctor area happen at intersections with stoplights. Of those crashes, the most common are right-angle accidents where a driver runs a red light and T-bones another car. 

"Cars are engineered to take impacts from the front and the back," Duluth Police Sgt. Ryan Morris said. "Cars aren't built necessarily to take those side impacts, so you see a lot more carnage when you have a right-angle crash."

Next week, local authorities are aiming to raise awareness through a red light enforcement campaign. It goes hand-in-hand with the new blue lights that are installed at 15 intersections in the area. 

The blue lights turn on once the light goes to red, so an officer can tell if someone has run a red light without having someone else on the other side. 

"I think a lot of the reason we didn't do a whole lot of red light enforcement proactively was because of the manpower issues," Morris said. "You had to have one officer sitting there watching the light and another officer to kind of take care of the downstream effect ... but now we can do that by sitting down where the light is and utilizing it as a single officer."

Morris said the blue lights are still a new thing to both officers and drivers, but it allows them to take 10 minutes when they're not on a call and monitor a light. 

"It's people not paying attention. It's people driving too fast. People being in a hurry, trying to beat those red lights," Morris said. 

He said the enforcement campaign, which starts Sept. 25, isn't meant to be a revenue generator. 

"We do write tickets, but our main goal is just changing that culture, changing the behavior and making sure that, me as a crash investigator, I don't get called out in the middle of the night to have to investigate fatal crashes," he said. "We don't have to knock on the doors of families and tell them that their loved one is gone."

So they hope drivers will think twice and know when they see a blue light to look for the red one too. 

St. Louis County Traffic Engineer Vic Lund said Florida implemented the blue lights awhile ago, and he said they have seen a 15-30 percent decrease in right-angle red light crashes since. 

"I think what the benefit of the enforcement lights are going to be is not necessarily just the enforcement portion, but ... people actually seeing the light and being reminded that there's something to think about when you're coming up to a traffic signal," Lund said. 

Ultimately, Morris said he'd prefer to have less work as a crash investigator. 

"If I don't have to write another ticket in the world, I'd be happy. If I don't have to get called out to another crash, I'd be happy," Morris said. "Put me out of a job, and I would be happy."

Lund said there will be 16 of the blue lights installed by the end of summer. 


Baihly Warfield

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