By Kyle Meenan
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- It occurs with frightening frequency throughout Duval County. Drivers running through red lights, risking crashes, injuries or even death.
On this Friday afternoon, First Coast News joined several units from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Traffic enforcement squad at the intersection of Kernan and Atlantic Boulevard.
The traffic light cycles through and turns red. The cars keep going. Not one, but two cars cruise right through the intersection heading west on Atlantic.
The drivers think they've just saved time by blowing through the red light, but seconds later they see the blue and red flashing lights in their rear-view mirrors.
"The big problem with red light running is traffic crashes and on top of that, injuries along with the traffic crash," said JSO Traffic enforcement Sergeant Jeff White.
Nationwide, it is estimated nearly four of every ten crashes occur at intersections, with many of those collisions caused by red light runners.
The estimated annual damage from red light running is 7-billion dollars.
Driver Chris Hionides told First Coast News he sees the violators every day.
"A lot of people are doing it aren't they? It's unfortunate because it's very very dangerous!"
Red-light running is the most frequent cause of crashes at intersections, but now police and drivers are seeing the light. A white light.
Through the State Department of Transportation, white, so-called "Confirmation Lights" have been installed at several dangerous intersections on state roads throughout Duval County.
The lights sit within a few inches of the top of the green, yellow and red traffic lights and they are wired to turn "on" when that particular light turns red.
Now, police officers can watch traffic coming through an intersection and "know" when the light is red to see which cars are violating the law.
"The officer can sit here and watch the white light. When it turns white, the light has changed red. So he knows the light's red and he watches and if the vehicle comes through the intersection -- he ran the red light," said Sgt. White.
So far the lights have been installed at the following intersections:
SR 10 (Atlantic Blvd) at Kernan Blvd
SR 115 (Southside Blvd) at Baymeadows Rd
SR 21 (Blanding Blvd) at Argyle Forest Blvd
SR 15/US 1 (New Kings) at Edgewood
SR 212 (Beach Blvd) at St. Johns Bluff
And police say using the white lights is safer, because they no longer have to pull out into traffic or through an intersection to pull a red light runner over.
"Instead of having to cut through traffic because the other traffic's already got a green light, and already proceeding with their normal flow of traffic, he can just pull 'em over safely and he doesn't have to cut across traffic," said White.
Part of the goal is to educate the driving public.
"Get them to slow down and think at these intersections where we're having traffic fatalities, and get that voluntary compliance."
And for those who choose to scoff at the law?
"We'll have to take enforcement action and running a red light fine is $183.50 right now!" said Sergeant White.
Does Chris Hionides think they might work?
"I hope they do. I hope the more control we have with police stopping people doing it, I think the better off everybody's going to be!"
First Coast News