If you see a red light, stop.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? If you see a red light, stop. It’s one of the most basic piece of driver education. Green means go, red means stop. (We can debate yellow later.) But somehow, Americans — and Kansans — haven’t gotten the message.

That’s according to a raft of disturbing new data from AAA. Let’s roll the clip, courtesy of The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Phil Anderson: “The number of traffic fatalities resulting from drivers running red lights has spiked in recent years, with 939 deaths reported in 2017 across the United States, AAA Kansas announced. … Almost 65% of the time, the fatality victim wasn’t in the vehicle that ran the red light.”

There are a number of reactions possible to this news. One of them is simple, amused incredulity. The mere idea that people don’t understand the importance of stopping at a red light seems to underlie an overall cultural collapse. We can’t be trusted to stop at a red light? Well then, we certainly can’t take care of our political institutions or climate.

But that’s a cynical view. Most of those ran red lights likely did so without meaning to cause harm. They didn’t see the red light because they were distracted, or they thought no one was watching. In other words, the all-too-familiar combination of hurried and inattentive that has distinguished American commuters since time immemorial.

Unfortunately though, it all comes at a cost. And that cost is human life. According to Anderson: “In Kansas, 63 people were killed as the result of drivers running red lights over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017 that was analyzed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.”

That’s not acceptable.

No appointment is so important, no journey so crucial that it costs a human life. (If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, it’s better to call 911 and rely on an ambulance for travel then to drive yourself.)

When looked at in total, traffic accidents are one of the most confounding causes of death and destruction in the American public life. Almost no traffic accident is inevitable. Sound public policy and driver education can address of vast number of accidents. We have been far too accepting for far too long of traffic deaths.

Running red lights is one of the most notable and egregious example. But it’s far from the only way we risk life and limb when we get behind the wheel of a car. And that life, and that limb is not necessarily our own.

If you see a red light, stop. It’s simple, but it’s a first step to a safer country and state.