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Officials launch red light fight

September 29, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

It's against the law and dangerous but some drivers run red lights.

Because not all motorists stop when the light goes against them, Hagerstown and Washington County law enforcement and health officials gathered in Public Square in Hagerstown Wednesday afternoon to kick off a national "stop red light running campaign."

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"The campaign's goal is to reduce the more than 1 million motor vehicle collisions occurring at traffic signals, which annually result in more than 500,000 injuries and more than 1,000 deaths," according to a statement distributed Wednesday.

In Hagerstown from 1996 through 1998, 158 of 371 traffic accidents - roughly 42 percent - were caused by red light violations, according to city police records.

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During that same period city police handed out 1,386 citations or warnings to drivers who ran red lights.

Dr. Marc Kross, trauma director at Washington County Hospital, said accidents caused by drivers going through red lights tend to result in serious injuries to drivers and passengers.

In such accidents, one vehicle frequently strikes another in the door area where there is less metal and usually no airbags to protect against injuries such as collapsed lungs, ruptured livers and ruptured spleens.

Kross also expressed concern about drivers going through yellow lights because sometimes the light turns red while they're in the intersection.

City Police Capt. Robert Frick said officers would emphasize enforcement of traffic safety and red light violations as part of their normal patrol duties.

He said the department might run special red light enforcement teams if personnel were available.

A driver caught running a red light in Hagerstown faces a fine of $120 and two points on his or her license, Frick said.

In 1998, city police wrote 419 citations or warnings for running red lights. That is about 6.5 percent of all citations or warnings city police handed out, said Wayne Dunkin, police computer specialist.

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