Study Shows Right-Turn-on-Red Crashes Are Rare

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
study shows right turn on red crashes are rare

Red light camera supporters insist that the devices are needed to prevent the common and deadly T-bone style of accident at intersections. In practice, however, automated ticketing lenses are more often positioned to photograph a different type of violation, one that rarely causes accidents. A review of US Department of Transportation statistics shows that an average motorist could drive a billion miles—the distance from Earth to Jupiter and back—before being involved in an accident that resulted from a motorist making a rolling stop on a right-hand turn.

Despite the rarity of such incidents, municipalities like Schaumburg, Illinois have used red light cameras to generate more than $1 million from right-on-red tickets. Of the 10,000 photo tickets issued since November, only about 200 involved the straight-through type of violation used to justify the devices. Likewise, Duncanville, Texas (with a population of 38,500) used a set of four cameras last year to generate 44,000 tickets worth $3.3 million.

The private contractor in charge of the ticketing program defines a “violation” as passing the stop bar painted on the pavement at any speed greater than 2 MPH. Because of the design of the monitored intersections, motorists often must pull into the crosswalk past the stop bar to see cross traffic before initiating a turn. That means even when motorists fully stop before turning, they can be mailed a ticket.

Such a strict attitude appears out of proportion to the danger posed by right-turn accidents. The 2001 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report entitled “ Analysis of Crossing Path Crashes” examined 1998 data from the General Estimates System (GES) and Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) accident databases to conclude that of about 6.33 million crashes that year, about 1.72 million involved one vehicle cutting into the path of another.

Of this amount, only 5.7 percent or 99,000 were classified as right-turn into path (RTIP) crashes, the least common type (Table 3-1). The category still included incidents unrelated to what might happen at an intersection, such as accidents that happened while making a right-hand turn out of a driveway or alley.

The number of right-turn accidents shrunk further to just 20,000 when narrowed to collisions taking place at intersections with traffic lights (Table 3-2). Of these, only 4.1 percent, or 2378, were caused by the violation of the traffic signal (Table 4-1).

Cities often justify these ticketing methods by saying they are protecting pedestrians and cyclists, but these numbers are small as well.

“The majority of fatalities did not occur at or near intersections,” the report stated.

Of the small number of fatalities that did happen at an intersection, only 10.9 percent happened during a right turn (Table 5-5). Such accidents were forty times less likely to occur than a collision with another automobile. The text of the 2001 report is available in a 700k PDF file at the source link below.

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  • Derm81 Derm81 on Feb 20, 2009

    Got any stats on drivers turning on red through a Michigan left?

  • Andy D Andy D on Feb 22, 2009

    In MA, the rule is something like : right turn on red after a stop unless signage tells you not to. I stop and look for signs. If I see one, some are obstructed, I then have assess the intersection for pedestrians or other obstructions. I drive all over greater Boston for work. My greatest fear is hitting a walker. So often times I will wait for the light regardless.

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.