Red light patrol

May 21, 1993

If behavior in traffic reflects overall conduct in American society, things are rapidly getting out of hand. Most motorists seem to think nothing of running a yellow light and an increasing number tailgate cars that are rushing through red ones. The bloody consequences are described every day in newspapers and on television news.

Howard County's police department is now trying to put a stop to this anarchy. In an innovative program that has few counterparts in the nation, Howard officers are now stationed at some intersections.

Their mission is to spot drivers running red signals so that they can be apprehended and ticketed.

"The whole concept is to try and reduce the number of collisions we have in the county," says Sgt. Glenn A. Hansen, who supervises traffic enforcement.

"There's no profile of the red light runner," says the sergeant. "We've had people of all ages. It's not just young people. Some are upstanding people who are impatient and don't realize the risk they're putting people into."

We applaud this enforcement effort and urge other police departments, particularly in the metropolitan area, to copy it. Let's make this into a summer of re-teaching safe, basic driving conduct.

Too many motorists have clearly forgotten the most fundamental rules of the road. In too many instances, motorists seem to believe that mandatory traffic rules are merely guidelines for personal preference.

Some of the confusion may have been caused by the relaxation of such rules as a ban on right turns on red. As a left turn on red soon becomes permissible in certain conditions, it is time for stepped-up traffic enforcement to make sure roads remain safe. The current fad of running red lights must be curbed.

Researchers say statistics show that failing to grant rights of way is second only to speeding as a cause of motor accidents. Monitoring problem intersections for red light runners may give the added dividend of reminding motorists to stay within prescribed speed limits.

We urge the other metropolitan police departments to follow Howard's example and begin putting added heat on red light runners. Such road terrorists ought to be hit hard so that the word spreads.

It's amazing how a little bit of fear usually improves driving habits.

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