Traffic lights are being updated to help with red light runners

Posted at 2:42 PM, Apr 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-27 23:40:09-04

Running a red light is something you might see every day, or maybe you have done it before. But trying to beat the light and saving those few seconds is putting yourself and everyone else’s lives at risk.


“You never get over losing your child but you learn to live with it,” said Sara Koefoed who lost her daughter Sandy 12 years ago.


“A car coming from the west and went to speed up and beat the red light, it hit her broad side, she was dead as soon as the car stopped spinning,” she said. Koefoed said when she drives and sees people running red lights it takes her back to her daughter’s death.


Omaha Police Sergeant Doug Klein said that “I called her death a needless death,” and that running red light has becomes a habit for many people.


“I worry about it, I see when I have to go make notification to someone's family that just lost a loved one for something like someone trying to beat a light,” said Klein.


Omaha had six deadly accidents last year involving red light violations. 13 percent of all crashes at an intersection were from red light violations. In 2014 there were 652 red light crashes which rose to 716 in 2015.


 “13% is something I would like to see down to single digits,” said City Traffic Engineer Murthy Koti.

Koti said the city does what they can to prevent red light running, adding “We are striving, we are working towards improving safety for red light runners, we don't want people running red lights.”


The city of Omaha is currently in the process of updating all their traffic lights with the “Master Plan.” $35 million dollars is going into upgrading the way traffic lights communicate with engineers.   


“The current system that we have is from the 70's and 80's technology, it is a very archaic system,” said Koti.


One simple upgrade will be adding a blinking left turn arrow to certain intersections.


“From a safety standpoint, national research has demonstrated that it is a much safer operation for a left-hand turner,” added Koti.


A Federal Highway Administration study found that drivers make fewer mistakes at a blinking yellow light because they are more aware that they must yield.


Currently 14th and Cuming in the only traffic signal in town with the feature right now.


Traffic lights will also be upgraded with fiber optic lines and an engineer will be able to watch a live feed of real time video of every traffic light in Omaha.


“That is the key, real time information and any changes we make here we want it in real time also,” said Koti. 200 cameras will be added with the new system to support the video center. Some of the system was used at the College World Series helping with traffic flow and communication with Omaha police.


The master plan is being funded mainly by the Federal Highway Administration and 200 lights will be updated by the end of 2017 with the full 1,000 lights by 2027.

Kofoed is hopeful that drivers will start slowing down at traffic lights and maybe these new upgrades can help save someone’s life.


“If you try to beat the red light you could get killed yourself, you think, ‘I am going to beat this light and you could get splattered over the street.’”