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Bryan Porter, assistant professor of psychology, and Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center have made national headlines with their federal study, which reveals that while 98 percent of Americans agree that running red lights is dangerous, almost half admit doing it because they're in a hurry.

The study, which ran on the national Associated Press newswire, was picked up by USA Today, CBS Radio News and ABC News Radio, as well as media outlets from Phoenix to Buffalo. Several local radio and television stations and newspapers also ran stories on the study.

Although social scientists involved with the survey hypothesized that frustration and road rage would represent what most people perceived as the primary causes of red light running, the results proved otherwise. Only 15.8 percent of respondents cited those reasons, while nearly half (47.8 percent) admitted to being prompted only by being in a hurry.

The survey focused on what drivers reported to be their red light running behaviors, as opposed to what they believed about red light running. Overall, 55.8 percent of the respondents admitted to running red lights.

Porter was the principal investigator on the grant that collected data used in the study. The survey has a margin of error of +/- three percentage points. A sample of 880 licensed drivers ages 18 and older was selected for the study by the research center. The results, obtained from the Stop Red Light Running Partnership, were released Sept. 23 by U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater.

The research also provided new evidence that red light runners do not conform to a set demographic; the dangerous practice reaches across drivers of all age, economic groups and gender. The perpetrators are everyday people -- professionals, blue-collar workers, unemployed, homemakers, parents and young adults.

Those in lower technology (68.3) and blue-collar jobs (61.2), as well as unemployed (68.8), and nonparents (65) reported more red light running than respondents in other categories. Professionals (59.7) and homemakers (54.8) also ranked highly. Parents with children less than 20 years old (65.6) are likely to run red lights more than parents of older children (40.8). Respondents with bachelor's and postgraduate degrees rank at 58.4 and 56 percent, respectively.

The survey also found that a majority of drivers, 58.2 percent, were more frustrated with discourtesy on the roads than they were with any other traffic problem, including congestion.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, drivers who run red lights are involved in 89,000 crashes a year, inflicting 82,000 injuries and nearly 1,000 deaths. In addition, from 1992 to 1998, the number of fatal crashes at intersections has increased by 16 percent, while all other types of fatal crashes have increased by only 5 percent.

This article was posted on: October 6, 1999

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