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#10 State Street-Divide Avenue

Blue confirmation lights are slated to be installed at 107 intersections. Above is the intersection of State Street and Divide Avenue in Bismarck. 

For too many motorists when the traffic signal turns yellow it’s an indication they need to hurry, that the light’s going to turn red. They push their luck and often end up going through a red light. While their intentions aren’t to run the red light they know they can’t always beat the changing signal.

Starting this year, Bismarck will have a new tool to ticket drivers who run red lights. The city will install law enforcement confirmation lights at 107 intersections. When the signal turns red the confirmation light will be illuminated, which allows police officers to see lights from the side. The goal is to help officers identify drivers who violate red lights.

Under North Dakota law, officers must prove the driver didn’t enter the intersection before the light turned red.

"There is about a three- to four-second delay where the lights will be red all four directions. In order to issue a ticket, the light has to turn red before the vehicle enters that intersection," Bismarck Police Lt. Jeff Solemsaas, who is in charge of the traffic division, told reporter Cheryl McCormack. The intersection begins at about the pedestrian crosswalk line.

The fine for running a red light in Bismarck is $20, which Solemsaas thinks is too low. The city should consider raising the fine for second violations and up.

It’s not difficult to recognize the red light problem in Bismarck. Any day during rush hour traffic it’s not hard to see motorists pushing the limits as lights change, especially in turn lanes. It’s understandable that drivers don’t want to get delayed in traffic. However, some drivers are just as eager to go when the light turns green.

Fortunately there were no red light fatalities in 2017 in Bismarck, but police did cite 297 drivers for red light violations through mid-November, according to Solemsaas. Running a red light might seem like a minor violation, but it can create a dangerous situation. Just about everyone has seen someone speed through a red light and realized if someone had been coming fast from the other direction there could have been a bad accident.

Part of good driving is developing good habits such as defensive driving. Good drivers are alert to dumb things other drivers might attempt. While Bismarck has grown considerably over the last few years it doesn’t take long to reach your destination. There are certain intersections that get busy during rush hour, but the time involved doesn’t compare to major cities. It doesn’t make sense to push the limits because it doesn’t take long to reach your destination.

It makes sense for the police to crack down on red light runners. It’s a safety problem that shouldn’t exist. Drivers need to be smarter about changing signals. This also is true about areas outside Bismarck where too many drivers consider stop signs as optional and just slow down before going through the sign. What might seem like a simple violation can result in a bad accident.

Bismarck motorists should be aware that police will have a new tool this year for catching red light offenders. It should result in a safer city.

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