PHOENIX — An in-depth ABC15 analysis of state crash data in the Valley's largest cities showed that Glendale had the most red-light running crashes per capita in 2020.
In ABC15's "Time To Stop" investigation, a team of Operation Safe Roads reporters spent four months looking at the data and talking to traffic experts, government officials, and families of victims. The goal was to better understand why a AAA study showed Arizona had more red-light running fatalities per capita than any other state and to find solutions that could save lives.
The investigation found that lengthening yellow-light timing at many Valley intersections could reduce red-light running and save lives. While it's still unclear why Arizona has a higher death rate for red-light running wrecks, crash "hot spots" in some cities and intersections were uncovered.
WORST RED-LIGHT CRASH CITIES
ABC15 analyzed Arizona Department of Transportation data, finding more than 4,800 times when someone disregarded a traffic signal at an Arizona intersection last year causing a wreck. We calculated 2020's crashes in the ten largest Valley cities and compared the numbers to population data, finding which cities had the most red-light running crashes per capita.
Glendale topped the list with 95 red-light crashes per 100,000 residents.
"It's hard for me to give you a pinpoint answer as to, you know, why we would have the higher crashes and other people," said Glendale City Traffic Engineer Tony Abbo.
Abbo said drivers could be in a rush or people could be distracted with electronic devices. Whatever the reason for the high numbers, Abbo said, Glendale is working with the Maricopa Association of Governments on solutions.
The other top red-light crash cities per capita are Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. The fewest crashes happened in Chandler, Goodyear, and Surprise, according to ABC15's analysis. Surprise, with 35 red light crashes per 100,000 thousand residents, has roughly one-third the crash rate of Glendale.
Teenagers Kiyvon Martin, Ariyanna Alexus-Savina Parsad, and Jazmine Esperanza Marquez were all killed in August after their car was hit at the intersection of 83rd Avenue and Bethany Home Road in Glendale. The other driver, in a Tesla, ran the red light, according to police.
"The impact from his speed - they did not have a chance, none of them," said Jazmine's mom, Jessica Marquez.
The driver who hit Kiyvon, Ariyanna, and Jazmine has not been criminally charged. Glendale police said the investigation is ongoing.
As their families seek justice in the case, they want all drivers to remember, running a red light is no accident.
"I know no one intentionally goes and kills three people, but your actions led up to that," said Ariyanna's sister, Jasmine Parsad.
Transportation safety groups told ABC15 stopping red-light runners is a priority because they tend to lead to dangerous T-bone crashes.
"Think of just how thin your driver door is," said Chuck Farmer with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Somebody slams into you, even at a relatively low speed 30-40 miles an hour, it's going to do some damage, not only to your vehicle but to you."
WORST RED-LIGHT CRASH INTERSECTIONS
ABC15 also tallied the number of red-light running crashes at intersections across Arizona, using 2020 ADOT crash data, finding many of them are near highway on-ramps.
The highest number of crashes, 19, occurred at Thomas Road and I-17 in Phoenix. There are two signalized intersections in this spot, working together to control traffic from I-17's frontage roads. GPS and intersection information in the ADOT data did not clearly differentiate which crashes happened at which lights.
The intersection of Hayden and McDowell roads in Scottsdale was second on the list with 11 red-light running crashes in 2020.
There were 10 crashes at 63rd Avenue and Beardsley Road in Glendale, according to ABC15's analysis. This intersection also involves a highway frontage road.
The intersections of Higley Road and the Loop 202 San Tan and Higley Road and U.S. 60 round out the top five worst intersections.
Phoenix's intersection at 67th Avenue and Indian School Road had eight crashes in 2020, according to ABC15's ADOT data analysis.
A Phoenix spokesman said prior years' data did not have that intersection as a hot spot for these kinds of crashes. However, he said the 67th Avenue and Indian School Road intersection is scheduled for fiscal year 2023 to receive upgraded signals including flashing yellow arrows and upgraded crosswalk push buttons.
"Those upgrades could contribute to a reduction of approximately 20 percent of injury or correctable crash types," Phoenix spokesman Gregg Bach said in an email to ABC15.
Officials in multiple cities said the intersections with high numbers of red-light crashes at highway frontage roads are controlled by ADOT. State transportation officials declined an on-camera interview, but they did release a statement, saying:
"Driver behavior, including speeding and impaired driving, is the leading cause of most crashes - red light running included - on state and local roadways. ADOT’s traffic control infrastructure meets or exceeds national safety standards. ADOT conducts safety-based reviews and uses sound engineering judgment to consider changes, if warranted, at signals or to signs and pavement markings in response to driver behavior issues. Changes would not be solely based on a single year’s crash numbers."