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Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 10:09 am

Beat that red light

Have you ever noticed how many reported car crashes take place in intersections? That’s one of the big problems, causing injuries and deaths, that do not get the attention of the other baddies. Everyone wants to beat a red light, putting life and limb in jeopardy. Some drivers who make a legal right hand turn on a red light do so even though a car is bearing down upon them. They simply take the risk. Many drivers take a turn in front of an oncoming car on a green light, hoping to make the turn before that car gets there. Worse of all, many drivers speed up when a light goes to yellow, moving faster than usual through what is now a red light.

Intersection crashes are common, and it’s all about not getting “stuck” at a red light. Yet, in smaller communities police officers routinely wait with radar in hand to stop a car going 10 miles over the speed limit. Rarely, if ever, does this violation cause an accident. Wouldn’t they be better situated watching intersections for the kind of behavior that really causes crashes?

Of course, we still have the thoughtless, inane practices of drunk, distracted and reckless driving. Recently, the Illinois Auditor General and a well-known baseball player joined the DUI Hall of Shame. Distracted driving continues to grow as a danger to us all – texting, cell phone use, applying makeup, eating, playing with the radio or the CD player, talking politely facing the passenger in the back seat, all incredibly stupid behavior. Reckless driving will always continue to be a danger; I saw two young drivers, one right after the other, speeding through a shopping center parking lot at about 80 mph!

We can have traffic safety laws. We can spend money on driver education in the schools and with federal and state grants to improve driving habits, but we won’t have any reduction of accidents unless we can get people to think about the dangers they pose every time they fail to recognize that those dangers exist. Is the risk of injuring or killing someone at an intersection really worth the few minutes saved by avoiding a red light by speeding up or beating an oncoming car to the intersection? We can preach until we’re blue in the face and won’t reach everyone about the seriousness of drunk, distracted and reckless driving, but surely rational people can understand that slowing down instead of speeding up on yellow and waiting for an oncoming car to pass before making a turn is worth living another day.

George A.M. Heroux of Springfield is the executive director of Victim Impact Speakers and the author of a message novel, But for the Crash. He can be reached at victimimpact@att.net.
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