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FHWA Home / Safety / Intersection / Making Intersections Safer: A Toolbox of Engineering Countermeasures to Reduce Red-Light Running

Making Intersections Safer: A Toolbox of Engineering Countermeasures to Reduce Red-Light Running

An Informational Report

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Chapter 5 - Future Needs

This report has been prepared to provide a better understanding of the red-light running problem and to provide information and case studies regarding how various engineering measures can be implemented to reduce the extent of red-light running. The solution to the red-light running problem also requires education and enforcement measures. An enforcement measure that has emerged in several jurisdictions throughout the United States is the use of automated-camera systems. These automated systems can be a viable countermeasure to red-light running violations and to resulting crashes. However, jurisdictions now using or contemplating using automated systems should ensure that candidate intersections have had engineering deficiencies corrected. In many cases, the engineering measures discussed in this report can provide a lasting and acceptable solution to a red-light running problem.

Further improvements in red-light running violations and crash reductions can be achieved through the following future activities:

These activities are discussed below as concluding remarks to this red-light running countermeasures toolbox.


Research and development is suggested in the following areas:

Figure 5-1. Infrastructure-Based ITS System that Warns Potential Red-Light Violators Approaching Intersection. Source: Presentation by Robert Ferlis to the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety.


In Chapter 2, statistics on the frequency and characteristics of red-light running crashes were provided. However, these statistics must be viewed as estimates, albeit reasonable, because existing crash databases do not allow accurate identification of crashes attributed to red-light running. The data come from the police crash report and police are sometimes reluctant to cite the motorist for running a red-light, especially if they cannot determine for certain who is the offending party. A review of the narrative or diagram requires confirmation that the crash did involve a red-light violator. While a change in the crash reporting form to deal with this issue is desirable, at least more caution in entering the data into electronic databases is needed. Also, agencies need an efficient data retrieval system that will allow the continuous monitoring suggested in Chapter 4.


Hopefully, this informational report has given those responsible for operation of traffic signals guidance on how to identify a red-light running problem and what countermeasures, especially engineering related, could be used to mitigate the problem. As best that could be done based on available information, guidelines are provided where a specific measure is most appropriate. However, better guidance on what measure is most appropriate for a given situation is needed. This guidance can follow from the research and development program noted above and from the experiences gained by the traffic engineering community.

The MUTCD provides standards and guidance related to traffic-signal design and operations and the associated traffic signs and markings, which draw from research and field experience. Adherence to these standards and guidance provides for uniform and consistent application of traffic-control devices. While this is generally true, there are significant variations in practices across the country, which can lead to motorist confusion and misunderstanding that might be reflected number, placement and configuration of the signals- and the operation-signal phasing, clearance intervals, etc.-would be beneficial to citizens that frequently drive in many states. While the unique requirements of a specific location will always need to be considered by the engineer, the focus of traffic-signal design and operation should be to deliver consistency (and uniformity) to the motorist in terms of head placement (signal visibility) and operation such as the length of yellow change and all-red clearance intervals.


The solution to the red-light running problem requires a comprehensive and coordinated program that involves those stakeholders responsible for providing a driving environment that is as safe as possible. From the start, driver-licensing agencies should ensure that new drivers understand basic rules of the road and the meanings and operations of traffic control devices. This is normally accomplished through driver manuals and driver testing for licensing. Education officials have a role in ensuring this information is acquired through driver training. In the case of red-light running, education continues for experienced drivers through public information and awareness campaigns that highlight the problem and its consequences. Education and public information programs are especially required when automated enforcement is utilized. Automated-enforcement programs are better accepted by the community and are more effective, if the public understands why they are being used, that other measures have been used and have not solved the problem, and that the program is carried out fairly.

Enforcement officials have the responsibility of assuring that road users adhere to traffic laws and take corrective action when they do not. Coordination between the enforcement and engineering community is needed to identify where there are high incidences of violations that are resulting in crashes. Enforcement officials should have a basic understanding of trafficcontrol devices and recognize where there are engineering deficiencies that may contribute to the violations.

The public works and engineering professionals responsible for the streets need to be aware of accepted standards and guidance that relate to the design and operation of traffic signals. They have a responsibility for monitoring the crash experience of their street system so that they can identify when a problem is emerging.

The stakeholders representing engineering, education and enforcement need to work together, developing programs and procedures that would allow for these actions to be carried out efficiently and effectively. Sometimes, this needed alliance can be achieved through partnerships formed between public agencies and private entities. Frequently, added funding can also be obtained when private and quasi-public entities interested in safety participate. An example of this can be seen in Michigan where an alliance of several groups was forged through the efforts of AAA Michigan.

Red-light running continues to be a significant national safety problem. The occurrence of red-light running and moreover the crashes that result from red-light running can be reduced at intersections through education, enforcement and engineering. This report provides information to engineers, law enforcement officials, elected and appointed officials and the general public to help accomplish the goal to reduce red-light running crashes.

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Page last modified on September 4, 2014
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