Drivers run red lights in Roanoke Valley; deaths hit 10-year high in Virginia

ROANOKE, Va.- – It happens every day at intersections across the country: people in a rush or just not paying attention and running a red light.

AAA said the number of people dying in red light crashes has hit an alarming level, a 10-year high in Virginia.

From Jan 1, 2018 to Aug 29, 2018, Roanoke City Police issued 224 tickets to people running red lights in Roanoke City.
From Jan 1, 2019 to Aug 29, 2019: 136 tickets, according to a police spokesperson. 

Not stopping in time could end your life or someone else's.

"We are definitely seeing that red light running is a dangerous problem across the country," said Tamra Johnson, of AAA. 

According to the AAA Foundation, 14 people were killed in 2017 due to running a red light in Virginia.

"They want to risk it, feel they could make it. They don't actually recognize that they will have the consequences that they can be that one person that causes a crash," said Johnson. 

Our news camera were recording as cars kept going through the light after it turned red on Orange Avenue and Williamson Road. The same thing happened further down at Orange and Plantation. 

And the story is no different in Roanoke County. 

"Our highest of red light runners are at Valley Gateway and Challenger. We've had about 22 violations there itself in the past five years," said Officer Mark Banks. 

In those five years, there was a fatality involving a red light at that intersection. Banks said it's important to pump the brakes.

"You have no idea of what other people coming in the intersection are doing. Most people see the green for themselves and they believe it's clear and that expect it to be clear and will just proceed on through," said Banks. 

Roanoke County police writes more than 200 citations every year for those running red lights. We tried to get this same information from Lynchburg police, and we were told they needed more time to process that information.


In Virginia during 2017, 14 people were killed due to red light running – an upsurge of 55% over 2012 and almost double the nationwide increase. In the past 10 years (2008-2017), 108 deaths resulted from red light running crashes in the Virginia.

With the number of red light running crashes on the rise, AAA calls for drivers to use caution when approaching signalized intersections, and for pedestrians and cyclists to stay alert when crossing the street.

According to the AAA Foundation:

  • 28% of crash deaths that occur at signalized intersections are the result of a driver running through a red light.
  • Per capita, Arizona has the highest rate of red light running fatalities while New Hampshire has the lowest rate. Virginia's rank: 36
  • Nearly half (46%) of those killed in red light running crashes were passengers or people in other vehicles and more than 5% were pedestrians or cyclists. Just over 35% of those killed were the drivers who ran the red light. In Virginia, 63% of those killed were either occupants of other vehicles (57%) or passengers (6%) of the red light running driver

About the Author:

Irisha joined the WSLS news team in January 2017 after spending four years as a reporter in Georgia.