HOUSTON – It can happen in an instant -- reckless drivers barreling through red lights, crashing into drivers at intersections, crushing vehicles, and injuring and sometimes killing innocent drivers.
Henry Yau knows this reality all too well.
"It was a Friday night. I had just left the movies, and I was waiting at the intersection of South Rice Avenue and Highway 59, waiting to make a left turn at the red light, when all of a sudden I felt this car just 'boom, boom' and bulldoze me," Yau said.
Yau was jack-hammered into the back of his seat three months ago when the driver of a pickup truck blasted into the rear of Henry's Nissan X-Terra as he sat harmlessly at a the red light.
"He was really determined to run the red light," Yau said. "I looked the back of my car, and what I saw was terrifying. The back of my vehicle was just smushed. It looked like -- looked like an accordion. Like someone just went 'bloop,'" Yau said.
The impact was so violent that it blew the windows right out of Yau's SUV, leaving him with a serious back injury and three herniated discs.
Attorney Jim Adler has been specializing in automotive and trucking accident cases for 47 years and said Houston is a hotbed for red-light runners.
"Unfortunately, red-light crashes are high-speed accidents, so you're going to have a huge crush to a vehicle, and the bodies inside are going to get hurt badly," said Adler.
Channel 2 Investigates took a look at every red-light crash reported to the Texas Department of Transportation in the last three years to identify the hot spots where the accidents most commonly occur.
Fatal traffic signal crashes
Pedestrian fatalities at traffic signals
From 2013 to 2015, there were a total of 61,133 red-light crashes at intersections in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.
In Harris County, the most dangerous areas were along busy stretches of road.
Along Westheimer Road, Channel 2 Investigates logged six fatal accidents at intersections since 2013. Channel 2 Investigates found accidents at Westheimer and Rogerdale, Westheimer (F.M. 1093) and Woodland Park Drive, and Westheimer at Eldridge Parkway.
Then, closer toward the Houston Galleria, there were two accidents at high-traffic intersections. One was at Westheimer and Hillcroft and another at Westheimer and Fountainview.
For pedestrians on Westheimer, the route was just as dangerous, with six accidents involving drivers running red lights and striking pedestrians. Two of them occurred at Westheimer and Sage roads.
Adler said he has witnessed firsthand the incredible suffering that comes with the accidents.
"(There are) cases where people are hit on the side of the vehicle and it crushes their hip, and they have to have surgery with pins and plates," Adler said.
The driver who slammed into Yau actually bolted from the scene on foot, leaving his mangled ride behind and leaving Yau with a sense of terror that just won't go away.
"That's what frustrates me the most," Yau said. "Whenever I hear a car's tires screeching, my body just has -- it just jolts. I don't think it's ever going to go away."