You’re sitting at the stoplight, listening to a podcast on the car stereo system. The light turns green. What do you do?

If you’re like most people, you just keep your eyes on the road in front of you and ease into the intersection. If you’re going straight, maybe you glance at the cars waiting to turn left to make sure that they wait for you. Is that enough?

It is all that you’re obligated to do, but it may not be enough to keep you safe. You really should look both ways, even at a green light, before entering the intersection.

Remember, thousands of people run red lights and cause accidents every year. In 2019, NPR reported that 939 people died in these accidents in 2017. That was a 31% increase and a 10-year high. And that’s just the deaths. Many other red-light accidents cause serious injuries, minor injuries and property damage.

Other drivers make mistakes. In some senses, this should be the first rule of the road that everyone learns when they get a license. Yes, you have the right of way at a green light, but that doesn’t mean everyone will respect that right. Your safety depends on understanding the very human errors people make behind the wheel. That’s why most accidents happen, and knowing what to watch out for can help you drive defensively and keep yourself out of these crashes.

Nothing guarantees your safety, of course, even an understanding of errors and risk. Sometimes, there is just nothing you can do. If you get injured by a neligent driver, you must know what rights you have to compensation.