It’s one of the first things they teach you in driving school, in fact, it probably goes without saying, red means stop! Why certain drivers run red lights, especially at intersections where the danger is obvious, is often a mystery. Whether it’s due to intentional aggressive driving, an emergency, fatigue, daydreaming, or a distraction, such as sun glare, running red lights costs lives. Nearly two-thirds of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, which includes running a red light. If the behavior was intentional, such as if someone purposely ran a red light to beat traffic and get to work on time, then the driver may actually be charged criminally with vehicular manslaughter or reckless endangerment of other drivers. Running a red light is a serious offense, especially because drivers who do so are typically speeding, and a T-bone accident as the result of a traffic control violation can leave you with serious, permanent injuries.
Aggressive Driving and Red Lights
In Florida, “aggressive careless driving” is a criminal offense that a driver can be charged with if he or she does any two of the following at the same time:
- Makes an improper or unsafe lane change
- Follows another vehicle too closely
- Fails to yield when necessary
- Passes another vehicle improperly
- Disobeys traffic control devices and signs, such as running a red light or stop sign
When it comes to intersection accidents, which are often the result of a driver running a red light, aggressive careless driving is often the culprit. For example, if a driver is speeding to “make” the light such that he can’t stop and hits the red light, running through it, this is a criminal offense in Florida, and you are entitled to compensation if you were injured as the result of the driver’s actions. Further, a Florida personal injury attorney may be able to argue that the other driver was negligent per se, that is for violating the law. This is a special type of negligence that applies when a driver’s behavior is not just negligent, it violates Florida’s traffic laws.
Red Light Habits
For drivers in the habit of violating Florida traffic laws, the more they drive aggressively, the more likely it is they will gain confidence that they have “beaten” the system. For example, if an aggressive, careless driver knows that there is a two second delay between his light turning red and yours turning green, then he might always try to run a yellow light or a red light that has just changed. The more a driver does so, the more likely it is that he will stop paying a lot of attention at intersections and begin to disregard the safety of other drivers. If he mistimes the light change by just one second, however, this could be fatal, especially because he was likely speeding.
As can often happen with young drivers who have yet to experience the true dangers of the road, a driver who is in the habit of running certain red lights in his neighborhood, and has done so without issue for years, might feel just as invincible as that teenager, resulting serious injuries to you or your loved one. For this reason, it is important to report drivers who run red lights and endanger your life. Perhaps it will break the habit that could cause serious injuries to another.
Reckless Driving in Florida
“Negligence” is the legal term for the cause of action under which most plaintiffs sue after a car accident. It essentially means that you are charging another driver with not adhering to ordinary standards of care while driving, such as speeding, running a stop sign, or using her cell phone. Aggressive driving clearly qualifies as “negligence,” but is it right to charge someone the same if he was going five miles per hour over the speed limit and got into a fender-bender as someone who intentionally ran a red light and caused serious injuries? In cases where the behavior of the other driver is extreme, such as in aggressive, careless driving situations, there is a cause of action called “recklessness,” and it can even be considered a felony in Florida.
“Reckless driving” is defined as when a person is guilty of willfully disregarding the safety of others with a “dangerous weapon,” i.e., the motor vehicle. To intentionally run a red light likely qualifies as a willful disregard for the safety of other drivers, and if you were injured in a red-light intersection accident, you may be able to seek “punitive damages” at trial.
In personal injury litigation, you are generally only entitled to seek compensation for your injury-related losses, which may include medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. If the driver was deemed to be reckless, however, you may have the right to an additional award of punitive damages, which are meant to actually punish the driver for his behavior and are unrelated to your direct losses. This award is above and beyond that which can be obtained in compensation for your injuries and is generally up to the judge or jury to decide upon.
As a safe driver, you are entitled to anticipate that the drivers around you will follow the basic rules of the road. When your light turns green, therefore, you are generally entitled to proceed and assume that the drivers with the red light will stop at the stop line. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple. Sometimes the behavior is intentional, and the injuries are made worse if the other driver was speeding, and sometimes it’s the result of distraction and inattention. Either way, if you had the right of way and were injured by the negligence or recklessness of another Florida driver, you have the right to seek compensation under Florida law and even damages to punish the offender for his or her reckless behavior. The Dolman Law Group has your premier personal injury and car accident attorneys in New Port Richey, Florida. With experience handling complex cases involving reckless driving, they will get you the compensation you deserve. Contact them today at (727) 853-6275 for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652