July 28, 2014

Awareness campaign urges Nebraskans to stop at red lights…or else

We’re supposed to stop at red lights, but some motorists ignore the law and blast right through, risking at least a ticket, and at most, killing someone.

This is National Stop On Red Week. Melissa Wandall, outreach director for the National Coalition for Safer Roads, is urging Nebraskans to become more aware of the deadly risks.

“The goals for National Stop On Red Week are to educate, encourage and empower the motorists on our highways to make better decisions when stopping on red,” Wandall says. “We want to make sure that’s what they’re doing. So many people unfortunately have forgotten that we have laws in place to keep us all safe.”

A federal study of Nebraska crashes in 2009 found intersection-related crashes claimed 64 lives. Nationwide, that same year, 8,700 people were killed in such wrecks at intersections.

While some drivers make a conscious choice to run a light because they’re running late, others might not realize they’re blowing through a stoplight because of their cell phone, GPS or something else.

“It has more to do with distractions than it has to do with people just not stopping on red,” Wandall says. “It doesn’t just have to be a gadget. You can be distracted in your mind, with your kids in the car, with your radio, it’s thinking about something else other than the fact of where you’re going.”

Wandall’s husband, Mark, was killed by a red-light runner two weeks before their daughter was born. Wandall has since become a leading voice for intersection safety. She helped spark passage of Florida’s “Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act,” which expanded the use of life-saving red light camera technology. She’s been telling her story for eight years now.

“I’ve actually have had people who’ve come to me and said, ‘I’ve always ran lights. I didn’t care and I never got caught and I never hurt anybody else but after hearing your story, it really made me think I have to change my behavior because I might just take some innocent child’s life or I might take a dad out of some family’s life.’”

The study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes, while more than two-point-three million drivers received a red-light citation last year.

Learn about this week’s campaign at: www.StopOnRedWeek.com