Topic:
BICYCLES; DEATH; MOTOR VEHICLES; PEDESTRIAN MALLS; STATISTICAL INFORMATION; TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS; TRAFFIC REGULATIONS;
Location:
TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS; TRAFFIC REGULATIONS;

OLR Research Report


July 1, 2008

 

2008-R-0336

RIGHT-TURN-ON-RED PEDESTRIAN FATALITIES

By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

You asked how many pedestrians have been killed in Connecticut from right-turning vehicles since the Right-Turn-On-Red (RTOR) law was enacted.

SUMMARY

Connecticut's RTOR law (CGS 14-299) was first enacted in 1975. It initially permitted a right turn at a red traffic signal whenever a sign was in place specifically permitting such a turn. In 1978, the law was changed to a generally permissive law, that is, a vehicle was permitted to make a right turn on a red signal as long as a sign was not in place specifically prohibiting it. Unfortunately, there is not sufficiently detailed pedestrian fatality data available going back that far to provide a complete answer to your question. However, we have analyzed the best available data for a period of 13 years, from 2006 to 1994, that is accessible through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). This report summarizes our findings. We have included both pedestrians and bicyclists in our analysis.

The FARS data for the 13-year period identifies a total of 579 pedestrian and 54 bicyclist fatalities. Of the total of 633 fatalities, 71 occurred at intersections with traffic lights. Four of these 71 fatalities appear to have involved vehicles making right turns at these traffic lights. The four fatalities occurred in 1994 in New Britain (bicyclist), 1995 in Bridgeport (pedestrian), 1998 in Groton (pedestrian), and 2006 in West Haven (bicyclist).

METHODOLOGY

FARS is a federally-mandated system through which detailed data on all motor vehicle-related fatalities is available for analysis. Each state must provide data to the system for every motor vehicle fatality using a uniform format. Data is made available through the FARS website going back to 1994. FARS is generally the most widely used database for fatality analysis.

We examined the FARS data for Connecticut motor vehicle fatalities for every year from 2006 (the most recent year available) back to 1994 (the first year of data available on the system). We identified a total of 633 fatality records for Connecticut during this 13-year period—579 involving pedestrians and 54 involving bicyclists. We then examined the data for each of these 633 fatalities individually to identify (1) those that occurred at an intersection with a traffic control signal, (2) the vehicle maneuver that lead to the vehicle striking the victim, and (3) relevant factors noted in the fatality report with regard to the pedestrian or bicyclist and the vehicle and driver.

FATALITY DESCRIPTION

For the period from 1994 through 2006, Connecticut experienced an annual average of 44.5 pedestrian and 4.2 bicyclist fatalities. The total number of fatalities was 579 pedestrians and 54 bicyclists. The largest number of pedestrian/bicyclist fatalities occurred in 1994 (69) the fewest occurred in 2004 (32).

Almost nine out of 10 pedestrian or bicyclist fatalities that occurred during this 13-year period happened at someplace other than an intersection with a traffic signal. Specifically, 71 of the 633 fatalities were at intersections with traffic signals (11.2%)—or an average of 5.46 per year. In the vast majority of these 71 cases, the vehicle that struck and killed the pedestrian or bicyclist was proceeding straight at the time of the accident.

Table 1 shows the pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities that occurred each year, the number that occurred at intersections with traffic signals, and the fatalities that involved right-turning vehicles.

Table 1: Connecticut Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities

Connecticut Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities

1994-2006

Year

Pedestrians

Bicyclists

Fatalities at Signalized Intersections

Right Turning Vehicle

2006

36

5

5

1

2005

35

3

4

--

2004

27

5

3

--

2003

35

2

4

--

2002

50

4

9

--

2001

35

3

2

--

2000

48

3

10

--

1999

51

3

4

--

1998

46

4

9

1

1997

54

5

7

--

1996

51

4

5

--

1995

48

7

4

1

1994

63

6

5

1

Totals

579

54

71

4

Source: NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System

Of the 71 fatalities that occurred at intersections with traffic signals, we found only four cases that involved the striking vehicle making a right turn. These occurred in 1994 (bicyclist), 1995 (pedestrian), 1998 (pedestrian), and 2006 (bicyclist). The details of each of the four incidents are provided below.

1994 Fatality

The fatality occurred on August 2, 1994 on Route 372 in New Britain at approximately 1:30 pm. The fatality was a 34-year-old male bicyclist. The motor vehicle involved in the fatality was a four-axle dump truck. It was being driven by a 63-year-old male. The dump truck was turning right at an intersection with a functioning traffic control signal. The fatality record indicates that a blood test on the fatally-injured bicyclist showed a blood-alcohol level of .18% (the per se level of intoxication in Connecticut at the time was .10%) The record indicates that the bicyclist was passing the truck on the wrong side at the time of the accident. Thus, from these factors, it appears that the intoxicated bicyclist was passing the dump truck on the right as it was making the right-turn-on-red. The truck driver was cited for an unidentified law violation.

1995 Fatality

The fatality occurred on Route 130 in Bridgeport on May 6, 1995 at approximately 7:15 am. The victim was a 50-year-old female pedestrian. It was a hit-and-run incident. The intersection had a functioning traffic light with a pedestrian crossing signal. The vehicle was turning right, but there is no information in the record to indicate whether or not right turns were permitted at the intersection.

1998 Fatality

The fatality occurred on U.S. Route 1 in Groton on May 20, 1998 at approximately 9:15 am. The intersection had a functioning traffic light with a pedestrian crossing signal. The fatality was an 81-year-old male who was riding in a motorized wheelchair. The fatality record indicates that he failed to obey the traffic control signal and was struck by a right-turning passenger vehicle being driven by a 36-year-old female. There is no indication as to whether right turns were prohibited or permitted at the intersection. The driver was not charged with any law violations.

2006 Fatality

The fatality occurred on Route 34 in West Haven on May 18, 2006 at approximately 10:30 am. The intersection had a functioning traffic light and a pedestrian crossing signal. The victim was a 26-year-old male bicyclist. He was hit by a two-axle truck being driven by a 35-year-old male. The truck had a weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds and was registered out-of-state. The fatality record does not specify whether right turns were permitted or prohibited at the intersection. The fatally-injured bicyclist was listed as having failed to yield the right of way which suggests that he may have been considered at fault. The driver was charged with an unknown law violation.

JF:ts