Melissa Wandall: Drivers think it’s their ‘right’ to run red lights
Florida mother Melissa Wandall has kept alive the memory of her husband, who died in a 2003 red-light-running accident, by educating and encouraging drivers to make smarter decisions on the road. Her husband’s life insurance gave her the financial security to focus on being an advocate for safe driving.
Wandall, who gave birth to daughter Madisyn two weeks after Mark Wandall’s death, talked with InsuranceQuotes.com about the effect of his death and about the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, a red-light camera safety program instituted by more than 55 Florida cities since it was enacted in 2010. Data shows communities with red-light safety camera programs have seen a 20 percent to 87 percent reduction in red-light-running violations within 18 months of the programs being launched.
On Oct. 24, 2003, my husband and my brother left to get a quick bite to eat. I had decided not to go with them because I was nine months pregnant and I just didn’t feel great that day. My husband said, “Please come with us.” I said, “Don’t be silly, you will be back in a couple of hours.” He said, “I love you and I will miss you.” A couple of hours later, I got a phone call that a quarter mile from the home, there had been a horrible crash and I was needed at the intersection.
My brother was stopped at a red light. The left arrow turned green for him to proceed through an intersection. A motorist traveling 48 to 51 miles per hour ran the light. The only thing that stopped the motorist was my brother’s vehicle. My husband was killed immediately. My brother was seriously injured and survived. They were wearing their seat belts.
When did you decide to become an advocate for safer driving?
I had to keep my head about myself, knowing I didn’t want my daughter born to tragedy. I didn’t want her born to a broken mommy. I made a promise to my husband (at the crash site), although he had already passed, that I would love, serve and protect her well. My advocacy effort started right away (beginning with the Mark Wandall Foundation in 2004 and then the STOP! Red Light Running Coalition of Florida in 2007, which became Stop on Red Florida).
Why is red-light running such a problem?
I think people feel that’s their right. People believe that when they go to an intersection that a red light is just a suggestion. We’re driving these loaded weapons where our vehicles don’t kill; unfortunately, we do.
As communities install the cameras and have seen fewer cases of red-light running, what effect could it have on car insurance?
In 2011, 94 percent of people in Florida issued a ticket for running a red light and fined $150 didn’t get another ticket. Due to the installation of red-light safety cameras, drivers are paying attention to red lights, which are leading to far less crashes, which I think will lead to the insurance rates going down.
How important was having life insurance to your safe driving advocacy efforts?
One hundred percent. If we did not have life insurance, I don’t think I would have been able to get this far. It allowed me the ability to take care of my daughter, … remain in our own home and protect my daughter’s future. It allowed me the ability to get resources together to pass a lifesaving bill. It allowed me time to advocate for this cause. Because of life insurance, I’ve been able to go out and honor my husband in a way that is going to be lifesaving to other people and to show my daughter who my husband was in this life.