BOZEMAN – When it comes to driving in downtown Bozeman, turns out people like to run red lights.
It’s a problem that police say lends itself to danger, both for drivers and those walking nearby.
“You are putting a lot of things at risk by pushing the lights and trying to hurry through the lights instead of preparing to stop,” says Sgt. Travis Munter, Operations Sergeant for the Bozeman Police Department.
“I was actually almost hit by a dump truck a couple days ago that wasn’t paying attention,” says Greg Lynn.
For many, it’s common sense — red means stop.
Others like Greg Lynn, who walks through downtown Bozeman daily, see others who simply keep going.
“More people need to pay attention,” Lynn says. “I mean, I don’t know if they are just on their cell phones or they don’t see anyone around and they just decide to go.”
Police say it is a fairly common offense to see but that does not make it any less illegal, so I wanted to see what would happen if I were to stay at a downtown intersection (Willson and Main Street, for example) for about half-an-hour and see how many tallies on a handheld tally clicker we get.
The wait was not a long one.
In the first five minutes, I counted six people running stoplights.
Within the next 15 minutes, I counted nearly two dozen more.
Several drivers waited several seconds beyond the red to make left turns at intersections.
Others, such as ambulances and other emergency vehicles, were a bit more understandable.
“A lot of people think yellow is ‘speed up and go through’ but you really need to have time to react to the stop that is coming up and understanding that when your light turns red, that means the other way turns green,” Sgt. Munter says.
Police say the penalties can be fierce, but it goes beyond the ticket.
Pedestrians have to keep their eyes open, too.
“We need to be paying attention, as pedestrians, as well, and making sure that you are looking up the road and across the street,” Sgt. Munter says. “Don’t just blindly cross the street. Just because it is a crosswalk, we still should probably look.”
In exactly half an hour, I tallied 38 people running one stoplight in town.
It’s a good reminder to watch out.
Penalties for getting caught running red lights depend on the situation but can range up to $500.
Reporting by Cody Boyer for MTN News